Heather Kampmeier wanted to take care of bills before she headed out on vacation earlier this spring. However, she didn't expect her water bill to look more like her mortgage.
"I about had a heart attack," said Kampmeier. "I'm like, really, $591 for three months?"
Kampmeier and her boyfriend are among nearly a dozen Janesville residents who have contacted News 3 and our Call For Action volunteers over the last few weeks to protest water bills that doubled, tripled and in Heather's case, nearly quadrupled. The calls are geographically spread out around the city, from property owners on the northeast side to the southwest side and in between.
"If I got that bill myself, I'd be concerned. I'd say, 'What's going on here?'" said Janesville Interim City Manager Jay Winzenz. "We certainly don't intend to charge anybody for more than what they actually used."
Winzenz sat down with his staff on Thursday morning to go over the statistics of what the city's utility department billed.
Of the 24,000 customers, Winzenz said there are usually 100 people whose bills went up sharply due to leaks in their systems, in places like their toilets or water softeners. The number of complaints this time is not substantially higher, but he said some of them are stranger.
"There are a few situations this time where we can't explain why the consumption has gone up," said Winzenz. "The thing about a water meter is the only way for that dial on the meter to spin is if water goes through that. It's the only way. If the water meter says that a certain amount of water was used, that water went through the meter. Where it went is what we have to determine."
Windy Zuniga first brought the attention to the Call For Action team. A dozen homes within a couple blocks of her house on Hoover Street registered abnormal water usage that are leading residents to question what's going on with the utility.
"There's no way we used that much water, we'd have an ocean in this neighborhood," said Zuniga. "I want to say their meters are faulty because since they put a new meter in my house, it's running great."
Winzenz said faulty meters should lead to a slower meter registering less usage rather than the other way around. Winzenz is encouraging customers to call the city to try to figure out what happened and if there was a leak, the utility will offer a leakage discount.
Heather Kampmeier was offered that leakage discount, but she'd still be required to pay more than $400. She has not paid the bill yet and said she wants more answers before she does.
"If we had been alone or there were a smaller number of people with problems, we'd just have paid the bill and been done with it, but because it appears to be more of a global problem in the city, I'm not going to walk away from it," she said.
If you have a consumer issue you'd like the Call For Action team to help with, click here: www.channel3000.com/callforaction