Pioneer Electric to begin reading meters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Pioneer Electric Cooperative serves some of the most sparsely settled areas of Alabama, with more than 2,700 miles of power line.

One of the ways the company has kept its costs down since its start in 1937, is by having its members and water customers turn in their own meter readings. But that is about to change.

Beginning in April, a contract meter-reading company, called Tru-Check, will begin reading the meters.

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&uot;It’s all is set to go,&uot; said Terry Wilhite, Pioneer’s company spokesman. &uot;Tru-Check has been mapping our service territory and establishing routes since early January, and is developing a plan to read more than 19,000 electric and water meters in Butler, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox counties and the fringes of some neighboring counties.&uot;

Wilhite said the move to company-read meter reading reflects the changing times, even in rural America.

&uot;Many of our members are older and aren’t able to read their meters,&uot; he said. &uot;Some have better things to do than read an electric or water meter. And an increasing number deliberately under report their electric use.&uot;

As headlines reported this summer, inaccurate readings or lack of a reading often resulted in large &uot;catch-up&uot; bills when the meter was read by cooperative personnel during a system-wide check.

Wilhite said by having Tru-Check read the meter, all customers will be assured that they’ll have 30 or 31 days of use billed to them.

&uot;Currently, if someone doesn’t read their meter on the same day of the month, every month, the number of days billed vary,&uot; Wilhite said.

Wilhite points out that the meter readers &uot;read and go&uot; and never have any need to go

inside your home.

&uot;Tru-Check readers drive red or white pickup trucks,&uot; he said. &uot;They walk to the meter, record a reading and go to the next home. Their trucks are clearly marked, and all of their personnel are dressed in bright red shirts with ‘meter reader’ stamped across the back.&uot;

Wilhite said Pioneer has received favorable feedback from members and customers after having announced the change.

&uot;Few folks like to read their water meter, and while the electric meter is easier to read, you’ve got to remember to do it,&uot; he said. &uot;Sure, some would still like to read their own meter, but overall, we feel the company-read meter reading will be a positive change that all our members will enjoy.&uot;

&uot;Tru-Check has been reading meters in many states throughout the Southeast for years. The company only hires local people who have passed rigorous criminal background checks, and who have trained extensively,&uot; he said.

Tru-Check has hired about a half dozen local residents for the job.

Wilhite said that members with locked gates are being asked to drop by Pioneer’s

customer service office to get a Pioneer lock to double-lock their gates.

&uot;Most with gates already have our lock in one part of their chain and their own lock in another part,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s the nature of serving out in the country. Folks know the co-op has to have access to power lines in case of an outage. We also have to have access to the meter.&uot;

Wilhite asks that any customers with concerns or questions call Pioneer’s customer service office at 382-6636 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In addition to providing electric service, Pioneer also operates the Butler County Water Authority, the Lowndes County Water Authority, the South Dallas Water Authority and the West Dallas Water Authority.