Ask an expert - It takes a village - KAREN BUCCIERI, WATER BILLING CLERK

If you live in Hinsdale and get a call from someone telling you your toilet is running, it might not be a prank. It might be Karen Buccieri.

Hinsdale's water billing clerk pays close attention to the water use of all 6,800 customers on the village's water system. When she sees signs of a potential leak that could be wasting water and costing a customer extra money, she lets them know.

"I go through the leak report every day," said Buccieri, who joined the village staff 11 years ago.

Buccieri was looking for a part-time job that would leave her weekends free when she came upon Hinsdale's need for front desk help. A few years later, she was asked to take on the full-time job of water billing clerk. Like the position that brought her to Hinsdale, Buccieri's current job includes plenty of opportunities to interact with the people of Hinsdale. That's the part of the job Buccieri said she enjoys most.

"In my heart, I feel like I work for them," said Buccieri, who often is the first person that a new resident encounters at Village Hall and the last person they talk to when they leave. When someone calls to open a new account for their new home, Buccieri also guides new Hinsdaleans through getting their vehicle stickers, parking permits and any other village-related business.

In addition to knowing whose pipes are leaking, Buccieri knows who is moving in and out of the village, as it's her job to open new accounts and close old ones.

"I'm always sad when a house closes and they move away," said Buccieri, whose job is busiest when the real estate market is hot.

Buccieri said her job has taught her a lot about how the water systems in the village and in peoples' homes work. She's learned that wine cellars require water to keep their contents cool, and that food dye can be used to locate a toilet leak.

Customer service is at the heart of all she does, Buccieri said. But even she has her limits. After guiding a resident through the process of checking for a toilet leak, Buccieri said she had to refuse his request that she fix the toilet, too.

Water customers are billed every other month, with half receiving bills one month and the other half the next. Billing week is always a busy one for Buccieri and her part-time assistant, Becky Srejma, who audit every bill before it hits the mail. When late fees and disconnection notices are necessary, they're always preceded with a phone call from Buccieri.

"I call every one of them to let them know the account is in arrears," she said.

Those calls are among the estimated 60 calls Buccieri makes or takes in an average day.

"The phone is always busy," Buccieri said, and she's always on the other end of the line, ready to answer questions, take payments or guide residents to a co-worker who can give them the answers they need.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean