CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Division of Water is going after delinquent water accounts with a renewed focus and effort, and there is plenty of money that needs to be collected. Below is a list of accounts the City of Cleveland reports are more than $40,000 behind.
Back in July, 5 On Your Side first reported more than 58,000 water accounts are behind six months or more, totaling some $70 million. The massive amount of delinquent accounts left some Cleveland City Council members wondering what went wrong.
As part of a NewsChannnel5 on-going investigation, 5 On Your Side exclusively obtained a list of 3,750 water department customers who owe $3,000 or more. The list collected from the Cleveland Department of Public Utilities, includes accounts from Aug. 1, 2010 to Aug. 1, 2011, that are past due more than 180 days.
According to records from the Cleveland Department of Public Utilities, 5 On Your Side discovered 57 accounts that are behind more than $40,000.
According to the City of Cleveland, the biggest unpaid water bill belongs to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Brook Park; three delinquent accounts totaling more than $1.7 million.
NewsChannel5 is trying reach NASA for comment concerning the unpaid water bill balance alleged by the Cleveland Division of Water.
The 94 page list includes these other notable unpaid water accounts: City of Cleveland/Emery Park, $156,471; Randall Park Mall $119,587; The Cleveland Board of Education, $100,823; and the Hopkins Airport Hotel Inn, $59,885.
According to the list provided by the City of Cleveland, the vast majority of bills are listed as being "in the collection process," or "a payment was made in the last 90 days."
Still, the City of Cleveland could not guarantee the accuracy of its list, and some of bills are listed as being disputed, and are under review. Cleveland's Public Records Administrator in the Department of Law issued the following statement:
"Accounts in this listing are being analyzed and audited as part of the Cleveland Water Department’s turnaround project, to ensure all billings are accurate and proper; we may identify errors as we perform this comprehensive review.
We do not guarantee these amounts are correct until the review is completed. Before taking collection actions, we will contact every customer by mail or telephone to ensure they are aware of their delinquent balances.
The City is committed to providing a consistent and fair process to resolve outstanding balances with its customers."
In the past three years, billing accuracy at the Cleveland Division of Water has been called into question. Inaccurate water bills generated hundreds of complaints, sent to the NewsChannel5 Troubleshooter Team.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson reported progress in customer service has been made in the past several months, however, the collection of delinquent accounts still needs significant improvement.
"People owe money, and they owe money to this system," said Mayor Frank Jackson back in July. "We expect to be paid, we're going to notify by phone, in their next bill, and through advertising."
Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek commented that it was unfair to ask residents to accept an 85 percent rate hike when so many bills have not been collected.
Issues at the Cleveland Division of Water are nothing new, 5 On Your Side has documented problems at the Cleveland water department since 2008.
Thousands of consumer complaints have flooded water department customer service representatives over the past year, after the water department reported 60,000 water bills were held in limbo and more than 16,000 water meters were reported broken or inaccurate in 2010.
The Cleveland City Council Public Utilities Committee held a series of hearings in order to help improve customer service, and now a "turnaround project" is taking aim at unpaid bills.
In the coming days, the NewsChannel5 Troubleshooter unit will be asking the Cleveland Division of Water what specifically it will do to step-up the collection process.
According to the City of Cleveland the following accounts are 180 days past due, and owe more than $40,000. Most of the accounts below are listed as "in the collection process," or "made a payment in the past 90 days.
$292,888.72, The K&D GROUP, 1250 Superior Avenue, Cleveland
$85,152.34, Highland Woods NS, LLC 4800 Country Lane Warrensville Heights
$156,471.18, City Of Cleveland/Emery Park 4076 W 130 Street , Cleveland
$83,889.26, Hayman Company of Ohio, LLC 445 Richmond Park West, Richmond Heights
$118,930.18, City of Cleveland LB92, 11819 Kelton Avenue, Cleveland
$88,071.62, Niedherst Indian Hills LLC, 1540 E 193 Street, Euclid
$57,206.28, International Masons, 1747 Lakefront Avenue, East Cleveland
$90,685.03, G.E.R. Euclid Emerald, LLC, 13420 Euclid Avenue, East Cleveland
$88,320.27, Highland Wood NS, LLC 4741 Country Lane, Warrensville Heights
$51,953.80, Villa View Management, LLC 280 E 244 Street, Euclid
$66,937.35, Mount St. Joseph, 21800 Chardon Road, Euclid