Camino Real Regional Utility Authority Takes Over Water Billing
Sunland Park, N.M. — Last month, the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority took over water billing for the city of Sunland Park.
It hasn't been a smooth transition because the State Auditor staff discovered the city hadn't billed residents for three months.
So he advised the new company to bill the residents.
"To catch up the customers and rather than send out a bill for three months and tell people they have to come up with three months of utilities in addition to their monthly utilities," said Karen Perez, a Dona Ana County Commisioner and Chair of the CRRUA.
"A lot of people don't keep records of their utility bills and they were angry. They were worried about meter readings, about payments made and non-payments. They were worried about the ability to catch up on utility bills," said Perez.
Under the new arrangement, each resident would get four months to pay an average of $100 on top of their usual monthly bills. Some people complained in person.
“ I've always paid my bill on time and I also had some concerns that my bill had gone up a lot higher than it had been in the past," said Sunland Park resident Brigitte Tenayo.
People wrote letters: "We can't drink the water that we're paying for because its not any good. we buy water to cook and to drink and it's not fair to pay for our errors or your errors if we pay every month for our utilities," wrote one resident.
County commissioner Karen Perez says it will take many more meetings with the public and the State Auditor until things get resolved.
"We get them to trust in the quality of the water and the services and then we build that confidence. I'm confident they'll see a really big difference," said Perez.
Commissioner Perez doesn't think the utility should have to deal with billing mistakes that were made by Sunland Park. She's drafting a letter to the State Auditor, asking that back fees be forgiven, so that no one in Sunland Park has to pay for those three months of water.