Liberty Utilities representatives field customers’ questions, complaints

Liberty Utilities General Manager Lester Melton and customer service representative Marilyn Mayfield took questions and complaints on Pine Bluff’s municipal water service at an hour-long meeting Thursday night at Word of Faith Full Gospel Baptist Church at 1108 Poplar St.

The Pine Bluff chapter of Arkansas Community Organizations hosted the event. Nine residential Liberty customers attended.

Chief topics of discussion included late fees on residential bills, billing cycles and problems experienced by customers attempting to pay their bills in drive-through and interior stations at Liberty’s 1100 State St. office.

Brainard Bivens said long lines of customers between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day cause inconvenience. He said the problem is inadequate staff numbers.

Melton said much of the process delay can be attributed to customers who pay only by cash and come to the office with billing problems. Mayfield said most customers who pay at the facility show up without their bills and clerks have to electronically figure charges. Other customers will try to address such problems as service shutoff or late fees when not fully prepared to do so, she said.

Bivens said he felt no employees should be given breaks during peak service hours so that perhaps customers wouldn’t have to wait as long. Mayfield said the company staggers lunch breaks, but employees must be granted time to eat.

Threasa L. Stuart said the billing cycles are confusing. Kendra Stokes said her water service has been stopped because she owes more than $300 in charges. She said she is disabled and needs assistance with the matter. Stuart said some city residents are so poor that they can’t afford water service and must obtain their water from the Arkansas River.

Melton explained the company’s billing cycle and Mayfield said meters are read on a regular basis but on a different schedule within specific areas.

Liberty fact sheets addressing billing cycles, late fees and payment options were distributed.

Customers can pay bills by mail, but some don’t send their payments in time for them to arrive before a due date. Melton said all payments received by mail or in drop boxes are posted upon receipt, with the drop-off locations checked at least once each day. The two drop-off boxes are located at Liberty’s office. Customers are asked not to put cash in the the drop boxes.

Customers can also pay by checking or credit card account drafts, telephone or email. Bills may also be paid at Walmart at 5501 S. Olive St. and Ace Cash Express locations at 2801 S. Olive St. and 2811 W. 28th Ave.