Jerry Sara did not complain when Rolling Meadows charged him $500 for the water he used to keep his landscaping alive during a single month of this summer's drought. But the $171 automatically added for sewer fees upset him because he knows most of that water did not go into the sanitary sewer.
Sara, whose city utility bills averaged $72 per month for the first half of this year, took his case to the Rolling Meadows City Council Tuesday night. And the mayor and aldermen agreed with him.
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The council decided it wants to do something to remove landscape water usage from sewer bills. Now, all sewer bills are calculated on a percentage of water usage.
Lawn waterers, swimming pool owners and those using cooling towers for air conditioning would benefit from the council's directive that staff members investigate whether the city's current technology could figure what amount of water pouring from the tap does not go into the sewer.
Third Ward Alderman Larry Buske brought the question to the council and invited Sara and two others to speak about their bills.
"Someone runs a lot of water, it's surface water, and calling it sewage is not right," said Buske. "It's false pretenses."
He recommends averaging each customer's sewer bills over the six winter months and charging users for the same amount of sewer usage in the summer.
At least one suburb uses software that calculates summer bills, while another bases its figures on February water use, which Fred Vogt, director of Pulbic Works, said could make the bills for snowbirds artificially low.
He also said any steps that encourage the use of lawn sprinklers would be against the city's water conservation policy, which is required because it obtains Lake Michigan water. Another downside would be finding a way to replace funds lost by lowering sewer bills.