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Home > Leadership > Mayor > CitiStat Buffalo > Archive CitiStat Buffalo In The News > 2006 Archives > Mayor Lauds Water Dept. Improvements

Mayor Lauds Water Dept. Improvements

Copyright 2006 The Buffalo News

Buffalo News (New York)
Byline: By Brian Meyer - News Staff Reporter  

City water users who complained about shoddy customer service this summer have seen dramatic improvements, Mayor Byron W. Brown said Monday.

Long waits on the system's phone lines have been slashed from an average of 23 minutes in August to under three minutes.

Fewer calls are being lost due to lengthy delays.

New phone messages give callers more information.

And within the next few weeks, property owners will be able to pay their water bills on the city's Web site for the first time. The Water Board approved the plan last month, earmarking up to $15,000 to develop the program.

Brown is pleased, and he praised the company that runs the water system for swiftly addressing problems that raised concerns on the mayor's new accountability panel. The CitiStat panel began scrutinizing customer service issues shortly after The Buffalo News reported that many residents had complained about phone delays, dropped calls and long lines at a service center on Exchange Street.

Brown said steps taken by American Water Services and the Water Board are already showing results when it comes to servicing Buffalo's 79,000 water customers.

The regional president of American Water said the improvements are evidence of a strong public-private partnership.

"This was a team effort from start to finish," Walter Lynch said in a written statement. "We know customer satisfaction rapidly increased following implementation of this new customer service process."

Other changes are also being studied. Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra said city officials continue to investigate the possibility of letting property owners pay their water bills at Tops and Wegmans supermarkets. The Water Board has already endorsed the plan, claiming it will make it easier for many people to pay the bills.

If the city decides to move forward, customers would pay a $1 transaction fee to Western Union for paying their water charges at supermarkets, just as they pay a charge now to make utility payments at the stores.