Ohio Attorney General exploring ways to monitor Cleveland water department customer service

5 On Your Side travels to Columbus for answers

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Improving customer service and reducing the number of complaints at the Cleveland Division of Water is a priority for the Cleveland mayor's office and the city council utility committee.

In fact, the utility committee and the mayor's office are the only two entities that can hold the Cleveland Division of Water accountable for eliminating water department customer service issues.

Last week, water department leaders reported dramatic improvements in customer service response time, a reduction in the number of missing water bills and a significant drop in the number of broken water meters.

However, despite these improvements, consumer water department complaints continue to be sent to NewsChannel5 every week. In recent months, 5 On Your Side has received dozens of complaints from residents who say they haven't received a water bill in several months, or have been issued inaccurate bills that are thousands of dollars higher than their normal bills.

In response to these issues, 5 On Your Side traveled to Columbus to ask Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio if they can do anything to help monitor and improve Cleveland water department customer service.

Currently, the Ohio Attorney General and the PUCO have no jurisdiction over municipal utilities under Ohio law, but Dewine told 5 On Your Side he is willing to look into changing Ohio law, especially when a municipal utility serves hundreds of thousand of consumers outside its city limits.

"I will talk to members of the state legislature about this," said DeWine. "To see if there is any way we can have more jurisdiction in this area, or some other watchdog."

One other watchdog could be the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which monitors private utility companies here in Ohio.

"We'd wait and see, and be interested in what the Attorney General has in mind," said PUCO Spokesperson Matt Butler. "If it's something the legislature wants to do, we would then create the rules to implement that legislation." 

The Ohio Attorney General's Office currently has 31 Cleveland water department complaints on file, and has contacted water department customer service in the search for solutions.

"$5,000 bills, $10,000 bills, I mean just crazy stuff," said DeWine. "We try to help people."

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This story is the fifth story in a series of stories newsnet5.com will be producing concerning problems and solutions at the Cleveland Division of Water over the next two weeks. Coming up on Thursday morning, 5 On Your Side will give you a preview of our comprehensive investigation into Cleveland water department customer service issues, as we go in search of permanent solutions.

Thursday on Live On Five Cleveland Division of Water customer service experts will be in studio to help consumers, and will also conduct a live chat right here on newsnet5.com starting at 5:00 p.m.

Then, join us for NewsChannel5's full investigation into customer service problems at the Cleveland Division of Water on NewsChannel5 at 11 p.m. on Thursday.

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