Monthly meter reading is finally underway for Snohomish PUD customers. The change comes after months of customers complaining that their bills were too high.
Snohomish County PUD hired more than 30 meter readers at a cost of $3.5 million annually for the next three years.
Earlier this year, Snohomish PUD was under fire for using estimate billing. The company was reading meters one month and estimating usage the next. Some said under that system their bills we just too high.
This all began in January when Hayley Shapiro called me when her bill went from $43 to $481 in a month at her small Everett home. Not long after, dozens of customers contacted me, voicing similar struggles with their utility bills. A few weeks later I asked the company to hold an evening meeting with its commissioners so rate payers could express their frustrations.
“To expect someone to pay that in one billing cycle, but yet not pay employees to check the meters once a month that just seems silly to me,” said Shapiro.
After that meeting I traveled to Chelan County PUD – another utility that attempted estimated billing. The company’s managing director John Stool also experienced angry customers after using estimated billing. They solved their problem by using an outside contractor to perform monthly meter reads.
The money to pay for Snohomish County PUD’s meter readers will come from a $170 million dollar reserve fund and will not cause rates to jump.
Snohomish PUD plans to phase out most of its meter readers starting around 2019 or 2020 when it moves to smart meters. Smart meters can be read from headquarters.