By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 5/24/20
It’s been a rough few Coronavirus weeks for everyone. However, every day Las Cruces residents have been able to count on their utilities and count on the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) workers who maintain the daily flow of safe natural gas, clean water, dependable wastewater (sewage) and weekly removal of trash.
While following stay-at-home orders and worrying about viral infections and economic repercussions, residents have spring cleaned houses, garages, and yards. And, although tensions may be running high, LCU wants to remind residents that staff is working hard to make sure your utility services stay on and that every customer’s situation is understood.
Ray Lucero, LCU field services technician, explained that his job is connecting and disconnecting utility services - a role he takes extremely seriously. NOTE: LCU has suspended disconnections of utility services due to the Coronavirus pandemic unless requested by a customer.
A key part of Lucero’s job is sometimes deescalating tense situations by talking and listening to customers. “I understand that people get upset and I try to talk to them as much as I can to see if we can figure out a solution,” said Lucero. “Sometimes customers don’t know they can call Customer Central (at 575-541-2111) and explain their situation to get help with paying utility bills.”
Jose Provencio, LCU deputy director Business Services, says, “We have procedures and assistance in place for those affected by the stay-at-home orders. For example, if you know that your stimulus check might come in the next week, we have a plan called Promise to Pay.”
“Our daily customer phone calls increased significantly with all the closures that affected Solid Waste facilities,” said Robin Lawrence, LCU deputy director Solid Waste. “Prior to this, we would average 65 customer phone calls daily, that’s approximately 1,300/month. In April, with reduced staffing because of the Coronavirus, we handled approximately 2,560 calls, or roughly 128 calls a day. That’s double.”
Lawrence is proud of her staff diligently making their way through the pandemic just like some frustrated customers, “We made sure our trucks were sent out daily; there has been no disruption in curbside trash service,” she said. “Our staff realizes that they are essential to the well-being of our city and most importantly, the well-being of their fellow residents. Our staff are your neighbors and fellow citizens, and we hope the same measure of respect is shown to LCU associates as we provide to customers.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Field Technician, Ray Lucero, checks the meter numbers at an apartment complex. Lucero, donning personal protective equipment (PPE), safely meets customers face-to-face and reminds them: if they need help paying utility bills to call Customer Central at 575-541-2111. Keep in mind wait times might be a bit longer right now.