Customers of Brooke Water north of Parker are being heard in an open docket process with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Thursday night’s meeting was lively.
Billing issues were the nearly universal complaint from customers who spoke at the community forum, which was hosted by Commissioners Andy Tobin and Bob Burns, two of five commissioners elected by statewide vote. Manager and part owner of Brooke Water Robert Hardcastle was also in attendance.
Customers said that they had been billed 13 times in one year, that the billing dates have been unpredictable, that water has been shut off in cases where bills haven’t been received, and that there has been little to no customer service from Brooke when questions or issues have arisen.
“I’m 73 years old and in all those 73 years, every place I’ve ever been has 12 months in a year, except for Brooke Water,” said one male customer, met with applause from the crowd of around 30 or so customers. “To get contact back from them is very difficult. You call and you get a recording. I don’t know what day of the month they’re ever going to bill me.”
Another woman said she had the same issue, adding, “We’re paying 394 days for a year. The other one was 386 I think.” She also said that she was billed more for a month when her water was turned off at the street than the two months on either side of it.
“How did we end up with a for-profit company servicing our water needs?” one female customer asked. “And what would it take to get the contract away from them and into the hands of somebody like our Sanitation District, somebody more suited to providing us this service that we need?”
Commissioner Tobin said he wouldn’t be able to answer, but added that there is “quite a mix, statewide” of private and public utility providers serving water customers.
“I would like to speak about our water quality,” began another customer. “Is anybody in here confident in just opening up your tap and drink a big old tall glass of water?” She went on to complain of the smell of the water sometimes and said that one time she had to replace her faucet because of “gravel” in the water.
Although neither the Commission nor Brooke Water were at the meeting for the purpose of responding to any of these statements, Hardcastle did opt to take the microphone when given the opportunity, saying that his company is working on the issues.
“We have made some progress,” he told the crowd. “There’s a lot of progress yet to be made. We have a really lengthy laundry list, if you will. Some of your problems and some of your comments and criticisms I am very familiar with, others I’m probably not as familiar with. But our objective is to be the best water utility provider in this area that we possibly can. We’ve been here almost 23 years and it’s time for us to maybe make some course corrections and course changes, and to that extent in cooperation with the Commission we plan to do that.”
As he was preparing to sit back down, he added:
“Your comments are not going to fall on deaf ears, I can assure you, and I hope that my presence and my interest in being here this evening is at least a small demonstration to you that we are interested in hearing them.”
The Commission will be overseeing the process of fixing the issues and has broad powers to enforce strict regulatory oversight on utilities. The process is an open docket and is ongoing.