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KC Water Services hosts luncheon to show customer service improvements

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Wednesday afternoon, Kansas City Water Department officials treated state lawmakers to a luncheon on taxpayer's dime, to share how well they are doing to improve customer relations.

The Kansas City delegation to the state house and legislators without any ties to the city were on the guest list. They were invited because of a recent letter outlining problems inside the water department.

"I had the water turned off in 2007," said Kansas City, MO, resident Percel McFadden, who explained he then received no bills.

It had been nearly six years since McFadden got a water bill for his late mother's home on East 12th Street.

"Why did they wait all this time before anyone said anything," he asked.

McFadden reached out to KCTV5, frustrated with a growing stack of bills, and no help from KC Water Services.

"No answer, nothing. The guy didn't say anything," he said.

During the last year, KCTV5 News Investigations exposed numerous customer service issues. Instead of working to collect overdue money from business and government accounts, the agency was billing vacant lots and homes without pipes.

The investigations fueled Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich to send a letter to Kansas City, MO's mayor, trying to generate support for a state audit of KC Water Services. The legislators invited to dine with water officials, their lobbyist and a consultant Wednesday also received the letter.

The invitation to the luncheon said the agency wanted to share positive customer improvements that have already been made.

That seems odd to many, considering the water department asked the city council to approve a $12 million no-bid contract to fix customer service. Water officials said the Chicago company is the only one qualified to help turn things around.

"While we still have more work to do, we are encouraged by the progress we have made," said Jennifer Kincaid, KCMO Water Services spokesperson. "I might also note that Water Services showed the most improvement of any City Department as showcased in the most recent citizen survey."

In the meantime, McFadden is glad KCTV5 helped wipe away the bill and make future ones stop. He doubts, though, that a $12 million deal will solve things.

"It's not a good idea, when the people you voted for in the city can't run it," he said.

Nearly 40 invites were sent out for the luncheon. A KCTV5 crew saw five legislators in attendance.

A City Council committee voted (2-1) Wednesday to approve the $12 million contract to a Chicago firm, to improve customer services at KC Water Services. The topic will be discussed at Thursday's business session in front of the full council at 1 p.m.

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