New meters expected to solve utility bill woes

Published 2:42 pm Friday, February 18, 2011

Cold weather and increased gas usage has caused some people to receive a high gas bill from the city recently.

City Clerk Priscilla Daniel said the utility department has been receiving some complaints from residents about high gas bills, but she believes the recent stint of cold weather could be the culprit.

The price for a cubic foot of natural gas has gone down, so that would not be the reason for the increase. Daniel said in January of 2010 the price for the first 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas was $18.37, and for every additional 1,000 cubic feet residents were charged $18.12.

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This January, the cost for the same amount of natural gas went down to $18.19 for the first 1,000 cubic feet, and $17.94 for every additional 1,000 cubic feet.

“So it’s cheaper this year than it was last year,” Daniel said.

Some customers who had large bills asked to have their meters re-read, but most of those were correct the first time, Daniel said.

“People used a lot of gas last month because of the weather,” Daniel said.

Other customers have submitted anonymous complaints to the Item about the erratic billing cycles the city has employed in the past year, varying from 25 days to 39 days. Daniel said the city currently uses city employees to read meters, and if those employees fall ill, or have vacations and holidays, then it puts them behind in reading meters.

The city is working on securing bids to install new meters throughout the city, which will be capable of being read wirelessly. Daniel said that installation may begin sometime in mid April or early May, and once they are installed, the new meters will alleviate a lot of the problems with meter reading. Not only will it put the entire city on a uniform billing cycle, but the instances of inaccurate meter readings should be eliminated, Daniel said.

Another facet of the new meters includes the ability for it to notify the customer when peak usage occurs, by the day, Daniel said. Not only will that ability be available for gas usage, but for water usage as well, Daniel said.