Friday, April 22, 2005

The Continuing Saga of (turn reverb to 11) Adventures in Meter Reading

First, a disclaimer: I don't work for this Kinder Morgan company, so much of what I'm about to say is based on my own experience where I do work.

Interesting article here about what they call "automated meters," and what we refer to as "OMR's." But I have a few problems with it. First:
Last year, an error-prone meter reader's mistakes led to some Casper-area customers, including City Councilwoman Lynne Whalen, receiving bills of over $1,000 because they had been undercharged for several months and their accounts needed to be caught-up.
This is almost certainly incorrect. If their bill had to be "caught up," it was not due to an error on the part of the meter reader. It was because the meter was either impossible to find, locked inside a back room with no access provided by the property owner, or guarded by a rabid 1500-pound Rottweiler (or a computer glitch, which I have also seen happen). Meters that have to be "caught up" are that way because they haven't been read in a long time. Second:
When a meter cannot be read manually, meter readers estimate how much gas has been used at that residence, Long said.
Wrong. Experience leads me to believe that this spokesman has never actually been on the street/in the back-alleys/walking all over somebody's godforsaken 17 1/2 acre estate looking for meters and actually reading them. If I were ever caught entering a read that I didn't actually get from a meter, I would be terminated. The estimating is done by the billing folks, by averaging several months worth of older bills. (This "spokeman" was just covering his own backside and blaming it on the peons.) Third:
Estimating gas usage does not happen often and Kinder Morgan tries its best to make sure gas usage is not estimated for two consecutive months, he added. But sometimes it is necessary.
I know of several meters that haven't been read in at least several months, because no one knows where they are. This particularly applies to gas meters. Electric meters are usually mounted on the wall of the house somewhere, but gas meters can be anywhere. And by anywhere, I mean it could be right against the house, somewhere in the back yard, somewhere out in the mosquito-infested Cambodian jungle of an alley behind the place, or even on someone else's property. The old guys who have been doing it for 30 years know where they are, but due to seniority they never read those routes--they only do the easy stuff. There are also "lost" electric meters. They are usually temporary meters that were never removed after construction was completed. I found one of these once, sealed up nice and tight between two adjacent privacy fences in a space just wide enough to house a meter on a pole. Due to its position, I was unable to read it.

The "automated meters" still have lots of problems. On larger properties, it is still necessary to know where the meters are so that a "line of sight" can be established to pick up the signal. If the property is large enough, and it has a nice, big brick house with the meter in the back, forget about it. There's too much distance and too many brick walls between you and the meter, and you can't pick up the signal.

No comments:

Post a Comment