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We hear you, Buckeye

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by Jackie Meck

Buckeye mayor

I’m proud to call Buckeye my home. I have lived here my entire life and I have always listened to my friends and neighbors and worked to solve problems. That’s the spirit of Buckeye I grew up in and that’s the spirit of Buckeye now.

We are here to help people and I want to say that we hear folks and their concerns with their water bills. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some information and ensure that everyone knows that we are doing everything we can to solve these problems.

And, while we may have more than 18,000 residential city water customers, we understand that for each one of you, your concern is important and you must be treated with respect.

Therefore, as soon as we realized there was an issue with the customer service that Buckeye water customers were receiving, we took action.

The city set up a hotline to ensure that folks with concerns about their water bills were directed to one place so the city could ensure their concerns were addressed.

And people did just that.

Since creating the hotline, the city has received 112 calls.

Twelve of those calls were for things unrelated to high water bills or spikes in usage. Those were folks who wanted their water turned on or had questions about their sewer service. We helped each of those individuals find answers.

Fifty-eight of the calls were from customers who experienced a spike in their water usage.

Regardless of the issues, each case has been reviewed and city staff has completed 90 visual inspections of meters.

Thirty-three cases have been resolved and staff continue to work with customers to address their concerns. And yes, some of the cases that were resolved involved folks who had a water leak and did not realize it. But, that is OK. We are still adjusting bills and ensuring that people are not saddled with water bills they cannot and should not be expected to pay.

I think it is also important to let people know that we have tried to reach 18 people to follow up on their concerns and they have not returned our phone calls or emails.

So, I want to remind everyone of the process. Because we can only help you if you let us know you have a problem.

The first step is calling the water hotline at 623-349-6900 or emailing us at waterhotline@buckeyeaz.gov.

When appropriate, the city will place a hold so that your water WILL NOT BE shut off and you DO NOT incur any additional fees.

From there, the city will work with all customers to take action, which may include searching for leaks, independent meter testing, in person meetings and potential bill reduction. Each case is different, so that is why we are encouraging everyone to contact the hotline.

Our city is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation — our population grew by almost 700 percent in less than 10 years. We are no longer a small town; we are a city with a new set of challenges. As with any transition, growing pains are to be expected.

We have been taking proactive steps over the past few years to keep up with growth and modernize our water system. With these goals in mind, the city purchased Global Water Resources and took actions to adjust its water rates, which hadn’t been updated in 30 years. Customers are adjusting to changes in the water rates and the city is adjusting to the increase in water customers and the customer service model we inherited. We recognize that the city must step up when it comes to customer service and communicating with its citizens.

We are looking into the water rates and are hoping to find ways to reduce the burden on our taxpayers, protect all of our water customers and continue to promote conservation. The council will discuss water rates at our next City Council workshop and council meeting Nov. 28. The workshop begins at 3 p.m. and the council meeting starts at 6 p.m. As always, we encourage all of our residents to attend our public meetings and provide thoughtful feedback.

We are also taking steps to help our residents take greater control of their water usage. The city is working to install a system-wide, smart wireless water meter reading system, which will go online next year. Soon, all customers will be able to log onto their account anytime to get a real time check on their home’s water usage.

To anyone with concerns, we hear you and we appreciate the chance to make things right. It takes time to review every case and give people the customer service they deserve. If you have concerns or problems with water bill spikes, please call 623-349-6900 or email us at waterhotline@buckeyeaz.gov.

Water is our most precious and scarce resource. We are working hard to ensure that safe, good quality water with decent water pressure will be available every time our customers turn on their faucets. The city of Buckeye is committed to providing reliable and high quality water for its residents now and into the future.

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