By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin 8/2/19
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) is on a continual journey of improvement in its mission to provide four utilities to the residents and businesses of Las Cruces.
Key to evaluating the performance of this City Department means going straight to customers to ask what they do and do not know about LCU. This past year LCU developed a quick 12-question survey offered in English and Spanish at four high-traffic locations: Sprouts, the Farmer’s Market, Toucan Market, and the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library. The bilingual Customer Survey was also mailed to more than 38,500 utility customers and was available online. For the face-to-face interactions, LCU worked with New Mexico State University’s Chi Epsilon, an honors group for civil engineering students.
The results were presented to the LCU Board of Commissioners on July 11th. In total, there were 1,433 responses – considered a very good response – and generally, customers knew a lot about LCU.
“We were encouraged that our education efforts have made an impact for customers understanding what utility services are available to them. For example, most knew their
weekly solid waste pick up also includes a monthly grappler and Green Grappler pick up,” said Alma Ruiz, LCU office manager senior. The grappler picks up bulky items and the Green Grappler picks up yard waste for recycling into composted mulch, including bulk branches.
Ruiz continued, “However there are still some opportunities to expand on, especially to assure residents that tax dollars do not fund the utilities.” LCU one of three City Departments that operate as Enterprise Funds - meaning customer billing for gas – water – wastewater – solid waste services pays the cost of providing those utility services to homes and businesses in and around Las Cruces. Costs include materials, operations, employee salaries, and service-related expenses. LCU is very active in applying for grants to help fund some projects, but your tax dollars do not fund day-to-day operations of LCU.
Another misconception: LCU provides 4 different utilities, but electricity is not one of them. El Paso Electric Company is the power provider to our region. Most customers don’t yet know that there are now two Customer Service Centers: one in City Hall and the East Mesa Customer Service Office at 5195 Bataan Memorial West. Lastly, half of those surveyed did not know about LCU’s free soil amendment, Class A+ Biosolid Compost.
The high-quality beneficial compost from the Jacob Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility (JHWWTF) is made from the sludge resulting from the wastewater treatment process. The compost promotes plant growth, enhances soil fertility, helps to conserve water, and is available without charge. You can pick up five gallon buckets of compost from the JHWWTF, 2851 W. Amador Avenue, during normal business hours.
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 residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Thanks to the help of New Mexico State University’s Chi Epsilon students and those customers gracious enough to spare a couple of minutes to answer the LCU survey, the department is able to know more about customer knowledge.