This month about half of our customers are receiving their first water bills in 2017 (everyone else will see their first bill in February). Some are getting their final quarterly bill while others are getting their first monthly bill. Whether you are receiving a quarterly or monthly bill, you’ll note that your Cleveland Water rates are staying the same in 2017. This is the second year in a row with no rate increases, and that will continue into 2018 as well. It’s not always that utility companies can do that for you, so naturally, it begs the question “how did we do it?”
The short answer is through a combination of hard work and smart planning.
Two projects in particular have been instrumental in achieving three years of 0% rate increases. The Customer Service Turnaround Project helped identify additional accounts that were not being billed, improved the consistency of our billing and call center operations, and helped implement a more effective collections process that stabilized our accounts receivables. But, perhaps, no project has been as important as our AMR project. The AMR technology is already paying huge dividends through a dramatic decline in estimated bills and the ability to more accurately measure consumption, all while providing an expanded and improved level of service to our customers.
But, the hard work put in over the past 5 years is only part of the story. We have also taken an aggressive and forward thinking approach to capital investment. Over the past 30 years, we have invested more than $1.6 billion in our infrastructure. We have fully modernized our four interconnected water treatment plants, as well as the pumps, tanks and towers located throughout our system. As a result, we are not facing the same financial burden as many other water utilities across the country.
This does not, however, mean we are done investing. Instead, we are shifting our focus to water mains buried underground that can break causing a great deal of customer inconvenience. Over the next nine years, we will invest more than $235 million in replacing these mains, all while maintaining reasonable water rates. “We’re working very hard to make smart investments in the water system, making sure every dollar counts,” says Alex Margevicius, Commissioner, Cleveland Water.
Just like our capital planning, we are not done trying to find ways to become more efficient while continuing to improve the service we provide our customers. The approved rate structure will now allow for us to tackle new projects – such as expanded technology based customer service options and a transition to monthly billing – all designed to make it easier to do business with Cleveland Water.