More Questions Than Answers For Frustrated Ahwatukee Water Customers
City of Phoenix officials have not discovered what’s caused around 100 Ahwatukee residents to have spikes in their water bills over the last several months.
More than 70 residents filled the Pecos Community Center for a town hall meeting with Councilman Sal DiCiccio and staff from the city’s Water Services Department.
At least two people stormed from the room prompting the arrival of Phoenix Police officers.
Resident Tracey Church said her water bill was three times higher than normal for several months. She came looking for a resolution.
“[I hope] that they find that there is an error in those meters and justice is served to all these residents that have had ten times the amount of their regular water bill,” Church said.
City staff presented information about how to read your water bill and how it measures water, but what the crowd wanted was answers.
“We want to get to the bottom of it,” said Kathryn Sorensen, director of Phoenix Water Services. “Our incentive is to treat you consistently and fairly along with all of our other customers.”
The city conducted 400 random equipment samples, but haven’t found any systemic problems.
“So now we need to look at individual cases and hold those cases to the same kind of rigor, go investigate them, work directly with our customers and hopefully alleviate their concerns,” Sorenson said.
The city has offered to perform the same test for residents who are experiencing problems. The diagnostic includes making sure the water meter and register match, the number of gallons in a unit is calculated correctly and the electronic read matches the manual one.
“If we check all of those things, that’s our indication that the equipment is working properly and that we have to look for other types of causes to address customer’s concerns,” Sorensen said.
While some residents said their high bills were limited to the summer months, others continue to see mounting costs.
“What can we do to relieve everyone’s tension?” asked Mike Blemaster, who said his bill jumped first to $700 and then to $1200.
The city of Phoenix flags water bills for review when they are three times or more higher or lower than the average bill.
However, for residents who already paid high bills, it’s unclear whether they can or will be refunded.
Any drastic policy change to the way Phoenix bills its residents for utilities or settles disputes could require action from the Phoenix City Council.
“I can’t wait another three months until we figure out the problem,” Blemaster said. “In the meantime everybody in this room needs some relief.”
In recent years, the city has replaced analog readers with digital ones that promise more accuracy. The water services department said the old way of measuring was 97 percent accurate, while the digital reads are 99.9 percent accurate.
Councilman DiCiccio also collected residents information and formed a citizen work group.
“It’s not just here, I believe it’s a systemic problem throughout the city of Phoenix,” DiCiccio said.
He said the Water Services Department will bring in an outside consultant to evaluate the problem.