Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) sends out more than 40,000 bills every month to cover the costs of providing four utilities – gas, water, wastewater, and solid waste – to more than 100,000 area residents and businesses.
LCU has always required new customers to provide their Social Security Number (SSN) when signing up for service, because if the bill is not paid, that debt will end up going to a Collection Agency. The Collection Agency must have the SSN to be sure they are contacting and dealing with the right “Bob Smith.” There are hundreds of thousands of people with the same name. But only one Bob Smith with that unique SSN.
“Every week,” explains Jose Provencio, business services administrator at LCU, “about 125 accounts are not paid by the due date.”
During the past couple of years, and with growing worries about identify theft, customers have voiced concerns to LCU Customer Service about requiring SSNs to open an account. A couple of customers have attended LCU Board of Commissioners meetings (monthly public meetings held at 3 p.m. the 2nd Thursday of every month) to urge the LCU Board to rethink requiring SSN’s from customers.
The Board heard the request by customers and has now acted on it. Effective January 31, 2018, LCU will no longer require your SSN when you apply for utility services.
However, the new “no SSN policy” comes with an issue – it makes collecting past due and unpaid bills from LCU customers more difficult. LCU is a City department that is not supported by your tax dollars; it operates by billing for utility services that are provided to customers and collecting the amounts that are due.
Provencio explains, “Previous to the Board decision to no longer require SSNs, LCU surveyed surrounding municipal utilities –City of Alamogordo, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, El Paso Water Utility, City of Santa Fe-Sangre De Cristo, City of Rio Rancho, and City of Tucson –to better understand how other municipal utilities were now handing the SSN issue… and how they managed billing if they were not requiring SSNs.”
“For those that did not require a SSN, we learned that 15 days is the standard time after the due date to shut off services when the bill is not paid,” says Provencio. Previously, LCU extended services for 38 days past the due date on a bill before disconnecting services.
LCU bills have always been due 22 days after they are sent out. Under the new policy, add another 15 days beyond the due date before utilities are shut off for non-payment. That allows 37 days after the bill is sent to pay the bill.
Additional changes with the new policy: When bills are not paid, and LCU must shut off utilities, the previous $15 shut off notification fee is no longer charged. If utilities are disconnected, once the bill is paid in full, utilities will be reconnected the same day at no charge. (Previously, the fee was $52 for same day reconnects.)
If customers find themselves in trouble and cannot pay their bill, we urge them again – before utilities are shutoff – to come in and talk to Collections staff to set up a payment plan to get the bill paid. LCU is always willing to work with customers who need assistance. The phone number to call is (575) 541-2111.
Submitted by Las Cruces Utilities
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces area residents and businesses.