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Bloomington and Normal looking to collect $2 million in overdue water bills

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Staff
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WGLT
The Town of Normal says water customers owe about $650,000 in delinquent payments.
Updated: October 1, 2021 at 10:17 AM CDT
The City of Bloomington on Friday announced an exemption program for residents unable to pay their utility bill because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Approximately 3,000 Bloomington-Normal residents could be on the verge of losing water service as moratoriums on utility shutoffs are set to expire.

The City of Bloomington’s pandemic-related moratorium ends Thursday after the city extended it earlier this month due to a rise in coronavirus cases locally. The city’s communications and external affairs manager, Katherine Murphy, said Bloomington has about 1,700 water customers who have past due accounts totaling $1.5 million.

The Town of Normal estimated it has about $650,000 in delinquent water payments from about 1,300 customers. The town’s director of communications and community relations, Cathy Oloffson, said that represents about 7% of the town’s water customers. Town staff has mailed letters to delinquent customers indicating people can ask for more time to pay their bills, but the town plans to resume shutoffs in November.

Bloomington options

The city said those behind on their bills can maintain water service if they agree to pay 10% of the balance. Customers who owe less than $2,000 can make monthly payments for up a year. Accounts that are over $2,000 behind will have 18 months to pay off the balance.

“Failure to make monthly installment payment, along with the monthly current bill, will result in the agreement being in default, a delinquency fee being applied, and immediate utility service disconnection,” the city said in a statement. The city said residents can call (309) 434-2426 to set up a payment plan.

The city on Friday announced it would offer an exemption program for residents with limited financial means that are unable to pay their utility bill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a city news release, residents need to indicate financial hardships caused by the pandemic, show contacts with at least two outside agencies for financial assistance and make "timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the customers' circumstances allows."

Applications for the exemption can be filed online.

The city has directed residents with overdue bills to contact Tazwood Community Services to seek help through its low income water assistance program.

Normal options

Normal Town council member Chemberly Cummings said the town will be flexible to help those who have fallen behind and can't pay up right away.

“We’re not just lifting (the moratorium) and leaving people hanging out to dry,” she said.

The town has encouraged water customers behind on the bills to seek help through Tazwood Community Services or an emergency assistance program through Normal Township.

Cummings said “no time is perfect” to resume shutoffs, but she said the economy has largely reopened and there are plenty of jobs available for people who have fallen behind on payments.

“We know that we also have to at some point move forward in order to get those revenues and maintain those revenues in order to be able to maintain water services to our customers,” Cummings said.

The town requests a down payment of 10% on overdue bills. Customers who owe less than $400 will be given six months to make up the balance. Those who owe between $400 and $999 will have a year to pay up, while anyone who owes more than $1,000 must agree to pay within 18 months.

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