CHICAGO (CBS) — For more than three years, the CBS 2 Investigators have been fixing bad water bills. And despite the fact that we’ve pointed out systematic billing issues time and time again, the City remains apathetic and refuses to right its wrongs.
Rodney Andrews — a Vietnam Veteran, a Chicago cabbie, and our main protagonist — was among those “Getting Hosed” by the City until we fixed his bill. Then, out of the blue, he got bulldozed.
“What’s Left Of It…”
“So this is your garage?” CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards asked Mr. Andrews.
“What’s left of it.” Mr. Andrews replied.
The pair stand in an empty lot where the garage once stood. Now, all that remains is the demolition dust that has settled on the bare concrete foundation.
The Cliff Notes
The CBS 2 Investigators first introduced Mr. Andrews back in 2019, when his a water bill ballooned to $10,700.57.
Mr. Andrews’ problems began back in 2003, when he bought this home from a friend who was facing financial difficulties. The two agreed that the friend would repurchase the home from Mr. Andrews after two years – but his friend’s finances never improved, leaving Mr. Andrews to assume the responsibilities of a property owner.
When his friend finally moved out of the house in 2007, he transferred a $214.07 bill to Mr. Andrews.
“I didn’t know anything about a water bill since I had never owned a house before,” Mr. Andrews said in 2019.
Even though Mr. Andrews never moved into the house and not a drop was used since his friend left, the water bills began increasing exponentially because the account was unmetered. Remember — unmetered accounts are billed on arbitrary factors like property size and plumbing fixtures, not actual water usage. And as a result, his bill spiraled to $10,700.57.
After our investigation into his bad bill, the City reduced his total to $3,164.63.
Then, through the generosity of viewers touched by Mr. Andrew’s story, he received assistance paying the remaining balance of the bill and help turning his house into a home.
His Hardest Fight
All Mr. Andrews ever did is what he was asked, including serving his country in Vietnam.
“What was the harder fight? Vietnam, or this fight with the City of Chicago?” Edwards asked back in 2019.
“The fight with the City,” Mr. Andrews replied.
And his fight continues. Mr. Andrews’ neighbor had informed him that his garage had been bulldozed — a truth that was hard to reconcile with as he thought he had remedied the situation a month prior through the administrative hearing process.
Hosed And Bulldozed
During the spring, a bad storm caused a tree to deteriorate the roofing on Mr. Andrews’ garage. In August, a neighbor filed a complaint with the City and in September, the City subsequently called Mr. Andrews in for an administrative hearing to determine whether there were any safety violations. The determination? No fines issued as it didn’t pose an immediate danger and Mr. Andrews was working on making repairs.
“I’m thinking everything’s all right,” Mr. Andrews said.
Yet, a month later, his garage was gone.
A Pattern Of Poorly Followed Procedures
The CBS 2 Investigators suspected something was wrong with Mr. Andrew’s demolition because we’ve seen the City biff its own protocol before.
Like Mr. Andrews, Ms. Camella Batten was hosed and bulldozed. She had a $3,000 water bill for a property that didn’t even exist because the City demolished it.
Ms. Batten hadn’t occupied her property for more than 10 years as she was in between nursing homes and hospitals receiving cancer treatment.
During the time it remained unoccupied, her building received numerous complaints, was fined through the administrative hearings process, and in 2014, it was deemed an “emergency demolition.”
But it wasn’t until 2019 — five years later — that a permit was finally pulled for an emergency demolition and the property was torn down.
Mr. Andrews’ garage? His property was never deemed a threat (he received a $0 fine in administrative hearings), yet it was gone within 72 hours of the inspection.
A Lack Of Warning
The one thing both cases have in common: both Mr. Andrews and Ms. Batten say they were never informed about the demolitions. And one things we can say definitively — Mr. Andrews and Ms. Batten have never lied to us. We can’t say that about the City.
We submitted a public records request for Mr. Andrews’ demolition documents. All we received was a two page inspection report and some pictures of his damaged garage. Missing was proof of permits and documentation that he had been notified via certified mail.
We asked the City for a statement about why it didn’t follow its own procedures. The City said it warned him by posting a notice on his garage door. Mr. Andrews says he never saw the notice. The City also said Mr. Andrews only had three days to oppose the demolition and fight it via an administrative hearing.
But Mr. Andrews had already won an administrative hearing for this very issue back in September.
“I don’t know exactly what to do,” Mr. Andrews said.
A year ago, we’d just about un-done the decades of damage done by the city to Mr. Andrews. Bill wiped. Water on. New appliances.
Now the City is setting him back — again.
And although the City said it couldn’t mail Mr. Andrews a warning about the demolition, it did mail him a bill for it in the amount of $2,126.90.
“It’s just a rough situation,” he said.