Because we value our customers, we work hard to provide the excellent service they deserve. The evidence of this hard work can be found in our decreased estimated bills, improved billing timeliness and accuracy, and our dramatically improved call center performance. We’re not perfect but our service is better today than it was in the past; and, most importantly, we’re striving to make it even better in the future.
When someone unfairly attacks the quality of our service, we feel obligated to set the facts straight. Recently, a local media outlet made some serious allegations about our approach to collecting past due balances going so far as to suggest that we unfairly target segments of our community that are most at risk. Let us be clear – nothing could be further from the truth.
Our goal at Cleveland Water is to keep every single customer in water service. We know you and your family count on the product we deliver to support your health, your job, and your community. This means we focus our efforts on keeping your water as affordable as possible, and we have had success controlling our costs enough that we are not increasing water rates in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
To help keep water affordable, we offer a lower rate to all customers for their first .6 MCF every quarter. In addition, we offer several discount programs to customers who may need a little extra help with their utility bills – both of which can reduce your water bill by about 40%. Also, in January 2017, we’ll begin rolling out our new monthly billing program which is designed to help customers more effectively budget and control their own utility costs.
But, we recognize that sometimes, this still isn’t enough and some customers may fall behind on their water bill. When this happens, our customer service team is ready to work with every customer to avoid water service interruptions. If a customer falls behind and reaches out to us, we will offer them a payment plan where, with a down payment, we will spread any past due balances over a period of time to make it more affordable for customers.
Before we disconnect a customer’s water service, we send multiple notices including leaving a card on their door. These notifications provide customers an opportunity to contact us and set up payment arrangements, dispute the charges, or, if they reside in a residential, owner-occupied property, request a Water Review Board hearing. On a related note, it has been suggested by the media outlet that our Water Review Board process is “shrouded in secrecy,” which is false. Every customer who may be eligible is notified in writing of their possible right to a hearing.
If all of these efforts fail, we may have to disconnect water service, but this is something we want to avoid at all costs. At no point in time can Cleveland Water foreclose on a customer’s home. We do, from time to time, utilize tax liens for collections purposes. However, this process is used essentially as a last resort after all other efforts have failed. This process involves certifying balances to the County tax bill for collection when individuals pay their taxes. This is a process we most commonly have to use when property owners – many times absentee landlords – simply walk away from their property leaving the community with an abandoned home and us with no other collections recourse.
We hope this helps put our efforts in the proper context. If you have additional questions about ways in which we do – or should – work with our customers, please feel free to send us an email or give us a call. If you have questions about your own water bill, give our customer service team a call at 216-664-3130.