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Council looks to hire firm for $12 million to fix water woes

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The Kansas City Council will consider hiring yet another consultant to help fix problems at the much-maligned Kansas City Water Department.

The council's finance committee decided to delay a decision on the contract following a meeting Wednesday. The issue will come back up next week.

Chicago-based West Monroe Partners LLC would get the contract. City officials say West Monroe is the only company capable of doing the work, which is why they did not seek requests for proposals from other firms.

As rates have risen, the department has come under fire for poor customer service, including not billing customers that should be billed and trying to bill customers who are dead or no longer use water.

According to the proposed city ordinance, the Chicago company "has unique and specialized experience for this project because of their experience in performing not only large scale utility and municipal system and customer service improvement implementations but also projects across multiple industries."

West Monroe would look at software upgrades, utility metering, billing process review, customer service management, technology improvements at the customer service call center and other issues.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason, who is chairwoman of the finance committee, said the Chicago firm has helped other utilities improve their service. She said Kansas City has taken a piece-meal approach to the water department and that has to change.

"We've really have for too long just kind of limped along with the water department," Marcason said. "This will really give us a structure and make it work like other utilities, which it is."

A private consultant hired by the council to fix customer service problems recommended the hiring of West Monroe.

KCTV5 News Investigates searched Kansas City contracts and found the Kansas City Water Services already has two other contracts with the Chicago-firm in the running for a $12 million contract to upgrade customer service.

The two other contracts are listed at $321,513, showing work on projects that began in March and May.

KCTV5 News reached out to Chicago's West Monroe Partners, LLC for comment but have yet to hear back.

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