Snow forces utilities to estimate some bills

Published On: Feb 10 2014 02:13:31 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 10 2014 06:01:46 PM CST
NEWTON, Kan. -

These aren't exactly ideal working conditions, but Westar meter reader Sean Kelly pushes on.

He plods his way through neighborhoods that haven't seen a snow plow or shovel.

Most meters take just seconds to read, but the weather presents an added challenge.

"I'll have to take a few more breaks than I usually need to do," Kelly says.

Occasionally meter readers will encounter a home they can't reach because of the snow. In those cases, the company will estimate a customer's bill for the month.

"Once we get an accurate read then we either adjust it one way or the other so that the bill is correct then," said Westar meter supervisor Tina Warren.

The company encourages customers to register an email address online. That way it can notify you by email if your meter was unreachable.

Kansas Gas Service has also had to estimate readings recently.  A spokeswoman said 9% of Wichita area customers have had their bill estimated in the past week because of weather.

The City of Wichita said inclement weather slowed meter readings last week.

"With the snow cover, meters are harder to find, they become frozen shut and it takes the meter readers longer to walk a route," a spokesman said.

Some bills were estimated to mail bills in a timely manner. There will be an "EST" beside it if the meter has been estimated.