CHICAGO (CBS) — A Kankakee girl saw the kindness of strangers when the local government shut down her lemonade stand.
But as CBS 2’s Jim Williams explains, a communications fiasco has now turned into a sour situation for the family.
When Iva Martenez was asked about the Good Samaritans coming through for her, she said “I thought it was over with and a thank you Jesus! I can breathe.”
CBS 2 reported when Kankakee County had shut down Hayli Martenez’s lemonade stand because the family did not have water and sewer service, many were touched by the 11-year-old girl and her story.
The response was enormous early this month.
Good Samaritans reached out to CBS 2 offering help, then paid off the delinquent water and sewer bills. Payments were made directly to Aqua Illinois.
Service was restored.
So imagine Hayli’s mom’s response when she got the new water and sewer bills.
“I don’t even think I could say those words. I cussed in my head,” Iva Martenez said.
The new sewer bill: $672.00.
Here’s the water bill: $295.00.
It is confusing.
An Aqua Illinois spokesperson said records show 13,000 gallons of water were used at the Martenez home over several months.
And the new bills reflect that usage, including a reconnect fee.
But as CBS 2 reported earlier, Kankakee County forced Hayli to close her lemonade stand because it said the family did not have water and sewer service.
As for the tough spot she’s in now, Iva Martenez wondered why Aqua Illinois did not tell the Good Samaritans the total amount owed.
“Why didn’t they say all this in the beginning when everybody was trying to help me,” Iva asked. “And how am I going to do this now?”
Jim Chilsen of the watchdog group the Citizens Utility Board agreed and said based on what he knows, Aqua Illinois should have communicated the full amount to the Good Samaritans rather than, in his words, creating this headache for a family that’s already been through a lot.
Aqua Illinois told CBS 2 it wants to work the family to offer assistance.
The company released this statement:
“We use a metered system to accurately measure customer water usage, and this bill is representative of water and services provided during the period in question. Building strong relationships with our customers is important to us and we will be reaching out to this family to better understand the situation and work toward a resolution.”