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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Toledo, Garbage, Water.

Today's Roland Hansen Commentary is about the outrageously inept, incompetent, citizen user-unfriendly, downright nasty, bureaucratic nightmare city government sponsored and sanctioned monopoly that is called the City of Toledo Water Department, aka City of Toledo Department of Public Utilities and its partner in citizen rip-off, the Division of Solid Waste.

If you haven't figured it out from my opening paragraph, I will state it clearly so there is no mistake: I am mad as hell! And, I am shouting it out to the world after a long battle with the craphole of that Toledo city department with totally unsatisfactory results. Having been a government bureaucrat myself, I am quite familiar with bureaucracy. My personal and professional belief is admittedly different than that of most citizens. I think bureaucracy as it is specialized can be a good thing for citizens when it is responsible, responsive, and accountable; the City of Toledo Water Department does not fit into that category.

Now, on with my commentary with some background information thrown in.

Where else in the whole wide world does a city charge garbage to your water bill as does the City of Toledo, Ohio?

Many, many years ago (I'm thinking about 50 years, but I do not recall exactly), the citizens of the Ohio city of Toledo voted themselves an income tax, the proceeds of which were to be used to construct an incinerator to burn garbage. The incinerator has not been built to this very day; and yet, the tax remains. Not only does the Toledo city income tax remain; but, it is higher now than it was when first approved by the voters.

Over the many years, garbage collection services have been provided by the City of Toledo as a public service that has been financed through the Toledo city income tax. Two years ago, our city leaders in all their collective non-wisdom decided to add a garbage fee to our water bills. Note the word "fee." They did so without a vote of the people. They did so even though the people had voted the income tax as a means to deal with the garbage in Toledo. They did so in blatant violation of the intent of that income tax. City elected and appointed officials profess that it is not a tax and therefore did not require a vote of the people.

What is this crap about it being a fee? A fee to whom? A true user fee is a charge that a governmental agency assesses the user of a government provided service. In Toledo, water bills are charged to the owners of the property. Some one other than the owner may be residing in the owner's property, some folks would call them renters, and consequently it is the renter that is the user of the garbage collection service but it is the owner of the property that is paying the fee. I realize that the owner will pass this cost down to the renter; however, that does not negate the fact that the garbage "fee" is not being billed to the user of the service. Additionally, even if a person does not use the City monopolized garbage collection service; the "fee" is still charged to the water bill. So what happens when a person is on an extended vacation or away for some months like us snowbirds who reside elsewhere during the winter, but leave the water on in the house with some one else watching over the temporarily vacant house? The GARBAGE fee is still billed! WHY! The service is not required and is not being used.

Incidentally, the City of Toledo does not call it "garbage collection," instead the City of Toledo calls it "refuse collection." Well, I do not have the opportunity to refuse Toledo refuse collection. And, I am not allowed to purchase this service elsewhere. In the area of my "winter residence" that lies in an unincorporated area, I have my choice of selecting which private company from which I wish to purchase garbage collection services, or, if I so choose, of not purchasing any services at all.

On with the story.

Not only am I now paying a garbage TAX on my water bill, it has been increased dramatically. I just received my current water bill that no one can ever understand (including me the bureaucrat) the line itemization of sewer volume, sewer fixed, sewer winter average, water minimum, and storm water. This current bill is charging me a refuse collection fee for the period 02/06/10 to 02/08/10 of $1.79 and a refuse collection fee for the period 04/01/10 to 05/07/10 of $18.30. SAY WHAT!!!

Enough about that garbage. That is only part of the problem. The other aspect concerns the water charges. The City of Toledo Department of Public Utilities has a quarterly billing period. In 2007, my four statements were as follows: $57.78; $59.98; $75.08; and, $70.73. In 2008, my four statements were as follows: $72.38; $63.93; $71.48; and, $71.84. My first statement for 2009 with a bill date of 02/12/09 was $676.17!!! Whoa....

Phone call to the water department and subsequent personal face-to-face meeting between the City bureaucrats and my wife, Judy, who insisted on handling the issue for fear I would have a coronary. A "corrected" billing statement dated 04/23/09 was issued for $788.32. Whoa, again....

The appeal process took place; and; we finally just gave up and paid the City of Toledo Department of Public Utilities a whopping $549.74.

Forward. The 08/10/09 statement was $71.28. Back to normal. But the next statement dated 11/09/09 went up to $104.31. Why? Hell if I know! That was followed by the 02/08/10 statement dipping down to $93.99 that is now followed by the current 5/10/10 statement of $129.10 including the outrageously high garbage tax, er, um, I mean refuse collection fee.

What the hell is going on? I cannot make heads nor tails of it and the yokels at the water department are of no help at all -.none, zero, zilch. I have all but given up. All this just tends to convince me that the City of Toledo is no longer the place for me, and yet I hate to think of leaving my home town permanently.

Hey, if you think it is just a disgruntled me who is unhappy, take another look:

"TOLEDO, OH (WTVG) -- I-Team reporter Zack Ottenstein has discovered outrageous collection practices in the city's department of public utilities."
Read the rest of the story from
Toledo water billed to wrong homeowners, Thursday, April 29, 2010.

Then, there's this:
"Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez has stopped processing property water liens from the city of Toledo until the Bell administration addresses a problem in which homeowners are being slapped with delinquent utility bills from previous homeowners".
Read the rest of the article from The Blade published on April 29, 2010:
Auditor puts halt to city's water liens by Ignazio Messina.

Have you ever tried to make heads or tails of your water bill? Take a good look at it, item by item, and then tell me honestly that you really understand it.
Click over and look at this CRAP about water, sewer, storm water, and garbage rates from the City of Toledo website.

I'll tell you this;
I say pi-- on that sh--! I'm storming mad! It's a bunch of garbage!


Maggie Thurber said...

well, my story doesn't contain such outrageous amounts as yours but I got my water bill with the trash tax (I call it a tax because that's what it is), but the bill was roughly twice the normal amount.

This bill also sets our winter sewer average, so that huge amount meant our 'average' useage for sewer was going to be very high as well. (As we have a pool, and the sewer usage is based upon water usage, the winter average is best for us...)

So we called and the lady was helpful in identifying that they had misread the meter. And a correct bill was issued right away. But how many people would call and question it versus just paying the amount????

But the water billing system doesn't make it easy for people to understand. The trash tax increase took affect right after passage by council - but on a different date than the billing cycle for the water bills.

So they billed us all for the couple of days between the passage and the start of the billing cycle, and then charged us monthly for the rest of the time...hence your $1.79 charge.

I hope Karen Shanahan wins her lawsuit that this is a tax and not a will make all our lives so much easier!

Anonymous said...

My story: We had to have the meter replaced. The tech came out & both meters needed to be replaced, both faulty. They adjusted our bill, an extra $900. They went back 3 years, to distribute the alleged water use/back fees. I have done the appeal thing (waste of time) & on the last letter from the dept, it stated I could ask for an administrative hearing. I called today & Tonya, the woman I was told to ask for, wouldn't schedule it. How can they go back, where there were obvious, normal usage/bills/payments, and tack on? We went from using 19ccf, they recalculated & now it's 24? Going back 3 years?? Now we have the new meters... my usage: 19ccf!! Mad as hell... no problem paying where there was no consumption, no reading but how can they use a figure from a faulty meter?? I have no clout, no power, & no money, so I imagine we will lose this battle. I lose sleep over this; it's not fair. Then we get the last bill, $260 or so (not including the massive amount heaved onto the bill), I ask why is this so high? The agent tells me because, for SOME reason, no bill generated in May. It's for 6 mths! So I am wondering if this will hurt us, remembering what Ms. Thurber was speaking of... anyway, just stumbled over here after my google search on high Toledo water bills.. had to rant....

Ed Maslak said...

My Story: I am convinced that the most important qualification to be employed at the Toledo water department is that your knuckeles scrape the ground when you walk.

The water department changed my meter and now my water bill has tripled! No one can explain the billing to me at the water department, we have no leaks and they sent a tech to come read the new meter and he said our bill was totally out of whack and should be much lower!

Our bill was less than 150.00 per quarter (I should mention it's just two of us, no children, no grandchildren, no pool, no dishwasher etc.) It has now jumped to over 500 dollars! They said our meter was faulty but didn't know which one... seriously??? So how do you compute the bill?

There was a story about a year ago how big companies owed around 15 million in back water bills, don't dare to ask whatever happened there. I started taking names of the people I was talking to and out of all of them, Dawn is just the rudest most unhappy person I have ever talked to.

Also, I call at 8 AM sharp and I'm already the 50th person in line. Everytime... the closest I ever made it was 38th! I will go through the useless appeals system and notify Toledo that the money is in escrow and which bank until someone can explain to me the billing system.