Meter Reading Specialists not reading meters

Published 1:55 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

City officials have become aware of an issue that could be costing the city money — utility meters are not being read regularly.

A meeting was held with city employees and officials to discuss the problem and what effect it is having on city bill collecting.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said it came to his attention recently that his meter has not been read when it was scheduled to be. He said the booby trap he set to detect if his meter was being read was never disturbed.

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Now that the software problem that kept residents from receiving bills for a few months has been resolved, the city will address the problem of meters not being read with Meter Reading Specialists, the company contracted by the city to read the meters.

Miller said the city needs to establish accountability in the matter. He understands there is a contract involved but that it can be broken.

“We’re going to get the job done and accountability is coming back to the city. If not, then we all need to be replaced,” Miller said.

Bills have been going out with estimates on utility usage. To remedy the situation in the short term, a meeting will be scheduled with representatives with Meter Reading Specialists. In the long run, the city is looking at replacing the existing meters with automatic meters.

Public Works Director Chad Frierson said the cost to put in meters that would automatically transmit the amount of usage to a central office would be about $2.5 million. With that in mind, the city might consider replacing natural gas meters first, which would cost about $450,000, and then consider replacing the other meters.

No decision is expected on replacing meters any time soon, Miller said. Until then, action on the current problem is imminent.

“We just know we’re going to straighten the problem out, whatever that takes,” Miller said.