In the first of what is expected to be monthly customer forums, representatives from Global Water Resources took questions and complaints from the public Thursday.
Topics ranged from high rates to lack of notification when meters were being changed out. The forum was the result of a public hearing called by the City of Maricopa in February with an angry audience of customers in the wake of water main breaks last fall.
At Thursday’s forum at Elements Event Center, the room was divided into areas to funnel specific questions to the appropriate administrator. CEO Ron Fleming had a regular scrum of people around him. He thought he would get many more questions about rates and cost of service but surmised they had been directed to other tables.
“People mentioned their bills have gone up and struggled with finding out why,” he said.
“If they wanted input as to the rates and stuff, I would tell them I’d really like to see it perhaps done on a per-gallon basis as opposed to the flat rate that everybody pays whether you use water or not,” said Barry Trush.
He and his wife Janice live in Maricopa only about six months out of the year but have a $100 monthly bill year-round in Glennwilde.
“At the end of the day, it’s not a horrible expense,” Trush said. “No matter where you are, in any city, you’re going to be paying for water and wastewater treatment.”
He said at their home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the monthly water bill is only around $70, “but on the other hand, we pay about four times as much for a hydrant.”
Resident Susan Cameron said her bill has been regular for eight years, but she attended to be a watchdog for friends who have seen an unexplained jump in usage on their bills.
“I have neighbors who’ve gone from like $100 one month to $300 for the next. I just don’t like to hear about people being screwed over,” she said. “I never know. I could be next: ‘You owe $500.’ I did the math on that. If you used 40,000 gallons in a month, that means your house is now a boat.”
Maricopa Meadows resident Debbie Richards came with questions about the rebate program.
“My husband told me I was wasting my time, that I wasn’t going to find out anything because usually you come to these things and they say, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I’ll have to look into that for you,’ and they never really do,” she said. “And Global Water hasn’t exactly had the best reputation.”
In this case, however, Richards said she received an explanation about the rebate.
“It didn’t seem to make sense to me every time I looked at my bills because you get a lower amount for 1,000 gallons than you do if you use 2,000 gallons,” she said. “He told me it’s because it’s a 60 percent savings if you’re over 6,000 gallons, and that makes sense if it’s a percentage.”
But there were concerns voiced that required later follow-up. That included the responsibility of cleaning and weeding the Santa Rosa Wash falling on the residents of Rancho El Dorado, the position of Global Water being a privately-owned company answerable to investors, and the door-hangers being used (or not) as notifications.
Global Water is in the process of changing 18,000 meters. The plan was to have each home notified with a door-hanger stating the day and approximate time the water would be turned off. Fleming said it is apparent workers are not always hanging the door-hangers correctly.
“Hanging it right means doing it,” he said. “By the feedback we’re getting, that didn’t go according to plan.”
Global Water’s own data showed the dramatic dip in customer service in November, when main breaks occurred. Fleming said the call center always receives a lot of customer calls from Maricopa “for some reason,” typically 10,000 to 12,000 a month. But in November, that jumped to 16,334.
At the same time the level of service for those phoning in dropped to 55 percent, the company’s lowest of the year. More than 1,500 customers hung up after waiting more than two minutes for a representative. The average wait time was nearly seven minutes.
The service stats rebounded in December but began to slide again in January and February.
Fleming said the turnout for the forum was “decent” compared to the large crowd he was expecting. He said the next forum might not be in an open house format but might be a presentation at the Global Water office. The company is also starting a new website specifically for its Maricopa customers.
“We weren’t here in one meeting thinking we were going to completely change the minds of customers with concerns on certain topics,” he said. “It’s really to hear that, tell them an immediate response – here’s our side – and we’ll work with them moving forward. Hopefully that was effective for the people that came here.”
A Global Water Timeline
March 2017 – Global Water hosts customer forum.
February 2017 – City of Maricopa hosts meeting to air public complaints about Global Water.
January 2017 – Global Water begins upgrading meters.
January 2017 – Water main breaks in Province.
November 2016 – Water main breaks on Porter Road.
November 2016 – Water main breaks on Honeycutt Road.
November 2016 – Global Water negotiates with Maricopa Fire & Medical over removal and prevention of sediment buildup at hydrants.
April 2015 – Residents of Senita, Rancho El Dorado, The Villages at Rancho El Dorado and Province complain about fees to clean up 404 Wash.
January 2015 – New Global Water rates go into effect, raising monthly water bills 4.4 percent to begin an eight-year, annual series of rate increases as approved by Arizona Corporation Commission and agreed to by City of Maricopa, Residential Utility Consumer Office and 14 HOAs.
April 2014 – Water main breaks on Honeycutt Road.
August 2013 – Settlement agreement filed with Arizona Corporation Commission increases wastewater bills 10.5 percent and water bills 42.5 percent; rate increases will go into effect in 2015, and Global Water is prohibited from requesting another rate increase until May 2017.
May 2013 – Public hearing on proposed Global Water rate increases.
February 2013 – City of Maricopa applies with Arizona Corporation Commission to intervene in rate case.
January 2013 – City forms task force to respond to rate-increase proposal.
July 2012 – Global Water says it is getting no rate of return in Maricopa as determined by the Arizona Corporation Commission and is seeking a rate increase.
June 2011 – Maricopa City Council adopts Amended MOU with Global Water “to maintain appropriately priced, high-quality water and wastewater services.”
June 2011 – Maricopa City Council adopts Resolution No. 11-40 to support use of Infrastructure Coordination and Finance Agreements as a means for financing water, wastewater and recycled water infrastructure.
August 2010 – Arizona Corporation Commission approves rate increase that will take average residential water/sewer bill from $76 to $96 by 2012.
July 2010 – Administrative Law judge recommends decreasing Global Water’s requested rate increase by 40 percent
December 2009 – Global Water pledges to spend $150,000 each year for five years to implement water-conservation practices for its larger water users.
December 2009 – Arizona Corporation Commission holds hearing in Maricopa as part of three weeks of hearings over proposed increase in Global Water rates.
November 2009 – Global Water seeks 34 percent gross revenue increase from Santa Cruz system and 130 percent gross revenue increase from Palo Verde wastewater system.
August 2007 – Global Water shuts down Smith Well over water quality.
January 2006 – MOU goes into effect. Global Water will pay $50 per residence fee for connections in city limits and $100 per residence fee outside city limits.
December 2005 – Global Water and City of Maricopa enter public-private partnership for water and wastewater services in Maricopa and outlying areas.
June 2005 – Global Water agrees to purchase 387 Domestic Water Improvement District from Sonoran Utility Services, serving HOAs south of the railroad tracks.
2004 – Global Water purchases Santa Cruz Water Company and Palo Verde Utilities Company, acquiring 175 square miles of service area.
2003 – Global Water Resources forms.
2001 – Palo Verde Utilities Company and Santa Cruz Water Company merge into one limited liability company.
1998 – Palo Verde Utilities Company files for Certificate of Convenience & Necessity from Arizona Corporation Commission to provide sewer service.