Months after Wauconda's water bills were a top issue in the local mayoral and village board campaigns, officials are taking steps to give customers online account access and better electronic billing options.
Right now, Wauconda's roughly 6,200 residential and commercial water customers only get paper bills and can't review statements online.
"It's limited," said Mayor Frank Bart, who was highly critical of the water-billing process when he campaigned earlier this year.
In addition to creating online access, Bart wants to add credit-card, debit-card and bank-transfer options to the system so paying bills is easier.
"We're trying to make it one convenient system," he said.
Bart also doesn't want the village to charge customers a convenience fee for paying water bills online.
"That discourages people from using it," he said.
The water bills were primarily a concern for Bart and the trustee hopefuls running on his slate in the April election. Bart won, as did one of the trustee candidates on his team, Teri Burke.
Bart and his allies opposed a 2012 board decision to create a monthly billing cycle for water and sewer service. It had been quarterly.
Among other changes:
• Bills are sent on the third day of each month, instead of the 15th day.
• The fee for having the village shut off or turn on water jumped from $50 to $75.
• The penalty for a bill paid late increased to 20 percent, from 10 percent.
Bart and his allies proposed letting customers decide if they desired monthly or quarterly bills. That's in the works, Bart said this week.
They also called for an online payment option, something that hasn't been available to customers.
During a committee-of-the-whole meeting this week, Village Administrator Zaida Torres recommended a software company called Springbrook to set up the system. The village already uses Springbrook financial software.
Transactions could cost 75 cents each, and there's a monthly maintenance fee of 95 cents per transaction, Bart said.
The village would cover those costs to encourage participation, he said.
The board didn't make any decisions on the matter during the meeting.
An online billing system could take four months to implement, Bart said. He hopes one could be running by this winter.