LOVINGTON – Lovington residents have been having issues with receiving high water bills due to a “system error” and when residents have called the water department to address these issues, the city tells them their bill is high due to a leak, not ever really giving residents a valid explanation of why their bill was so high.
According to a Lovington Community Facebook page, it is not just a single resident who has been experiencing these issues, rather it is eight residents, all of whom addressed their concerns on the post as well.
The post starts with Lovington resident Lila Serrano stating the issues she experienced with the city, followed by a handful of other residents stating they have experienced similar issues.
“In June my water bill was $300,” Serrano stated in her post. “I called the water department and asked them to give me a rundown on why my water bill was so high. They gave me a rundown on my water usage and stated that it was really high and it was probably due to my sprinkler system and a leak. July’s bill was $400 and Augusts’ bill was over $500. There was no possible way for this to be accurate. There were no leaks and we had cut down our watering by half.”
Another resident responded saying, “My dad’s water bill was $615 so I called and after fighting with them (the city) for what felt like forever, they realized it was a “mistake” and his water bill was only $110. They insisted there was a leak somewhere so I asked them kindly to come show me where and that’s when they realized there must have been a mistake.”
Another post states something similar, “My mom has been having high bills as well. One month can be $85-$90, the next $150-$200. It’s crazy. She went to talk to one of the ladies and got into it with her saying she had a leak outside in the back and that she had some of her employees at her house fixing it and when my mom went there was nobody there. My mom tried to talk to someone higher than that lady and the lady told her she was the only one that she could talk to.”
Serrano said despite her attempts to address the water department and stress to them that there was no leak, the water department continued to state the issue was due to a leak.
“You have really high water usage,” Serrano stated the city said to her when she asked about her billing issue. “She was looking at her logs and giving me all of the times the water usage was really high and I told her that was not possible because that’s not the times that my sprinklers run. She said well then maybe you have a leak. I said I would’ve noticed because that’s a lot of water, it’s not just a trickle.”
Serrano said she and her husband even went as far as having their sprinkler system serviced, do a rundown of where all the water could be going, removing sprinkler heads and replacing them and having a plumber come out and taking a look at the house to find what and if any leak exists.
No leaks existed and no issues with the sprinkler system existed. Serrano was left to call the water department and ask for a year’s worth of water usage in order to make a comparison.
Serrano has yet to have received these logs and the only way she, like many other residents, was able to fix the problem was by continuing to make phone calls to the water department and insisting that her bill was wrong.
“Calls were made to city commissioners and finally we were told that our usage was being reviewed by (Public Works Director Wyatt Duncan,” Serrano said. “My bill altogether was over $900 and I was not going to pay for July or August until things were looked at. I was told that it was going to take several days to look over our water usage.”
Serrano, like many other Lovington residents, was ultimately told the issue was due to a system error but was not given a valid explanation as to what that system error was.
“After complaining to anyone who would hear me, I was told that these errors are happening quite frequently and that unless a customer makes a big fuss, the water department has been told not to tell anyone and let them know that due to it being the summer, high water usage and a leak, their water bills are high,” Serrano stated.
Although Serrano’s bill was credited, she is awaiting further review about additional discrepancies found. The additional discrepancies were addressed to the city on Sept. 9 and as of today, these discrepancies have yet to have been addressed. Serrano believes if she were not so persistent about her water bill being inaccurate, the city would’ve let the matter go without ever doing anything to mitigate the issue.
Lovington Mayor David Trujillo recognized the complaints but believes the high rates are due to the increased water rates the city approved.
“Ever since we had rate increases we had more complaints,” Trujillo stated. “There have been findings which were corrected for some residents but also found issues that were on their side of the fence as well.”
Trujillo said he has seen more complaints come across and rather than let the issue be “looked into” he would rather work towards obtaining a solid answer for the resident.
“I have seen an increase and it’s always during the summer too,” Trujillo said. “That’s when people will most likely see their bill rise when their sprinklers kick on and they don’t realize how much water they are putting out. Their bills will be high all the way until September and then after September all the way through May they’re going to see their rate decrease due to not watering the lawn anymore or filling up the swimming pool.”
Trujillo said for any resident who feels there may be a discrepancy with their bill they should follow the chain of command if they don’t feel comfortable speaking with “the ladies in the water department.”
“I would recommend they go through the process and if they’re not satisfied with meeting with the ladies right there at the water department, then they should move forward to meeting with Wyatt,” Trujillo said. “If Wyatt can’t address it, (Lovington Police Chief David Rodriguez) will address it. It’s a process all the way up to me and I can always address it with the board.”