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Waynesboro officials unhappy with FirstEnergy estimated readings

March 24, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Borough of Waynesboro officials aired grievances about FirstEnergy practices last week as they questioned why electric meters are not read more often.

David Kline from FirstEnergy talked to the Waynesboro Borough Council on Wednesday about complaints about power bills having estimated meter readings several months in a row.

When Allegheny Energy merged with FirstEnergy two years ago, there were not many immediate changes, Kline said. However, computer systems and meter-reading policies started changing about a year ago, he said.

Previously, one person read and connected/disconnected meters. FirstEnergy, though, has three classifications for those types of employees, and many of the existing employees moved into the top tier of that work, according to Kline.

The company had trouble finding entry-level meter readers with spotless driving records and reliable transportation, Kline said.

Also, all employees are required to respond to storm situations, and that can cut down on personnel available for reading meters, he said.

“By the end of (last) year, sadly, our reading rate was, I think, 61 percent and we were missing a lot of readings,” Kline said.

Pennsylvania’s electric utility companies are required to read meters every other month. Kline said having a meter missed on its regular schedule means it could likely not be read until the third month.

The company is seeking to make improvements and reach a reading rate of 96 percent, Kline said. To reach that, it is hiring and changing the routes by which meter readers are dispatched in groups, he said.

“We recognize there is a problem. Certainly, there is a problem, and we’re trying to fix it,” Kline said, saying he thinks the goals can be reached by summer.

Borough council member Ben Greenawalt told Kline some customers have difficulty getting their bills, then they wait on the phone for an hour for customer service.

“We have gotten complaints about the call center — extremely long waits and disconnects,” Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

Kline encouraged borough officials to stay in touch with him, promising to address individual issues as he is able.

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