This explanation may fall on deaf ears. Also, my rationale may not be true for all the utility customers in Salem. The situation that created the new, high utility bills all goes back to the purchase of the new meters in our city's utility grid.
Our aldermanic board decided to replace all the old, and I do mean old, water and electric meters. Was this a bad idea? Probably not, since many of the water meters in town were 50, 60 and some less years in age. Because the water meters were old and mechanical, their volume readings were always low. The loss of billed water consumption and the required man hours to read each meter in town were important factors resulting in their replacement.
I don't know if Salem did a payback study before undertaking this change, but such studies are important in determining new purchase efficiency and future billing adjustments. I believe the new water meters are providing the city with more accurate consumption reading.
I do not think the electric meters have had a similar accuracy problem but required replacement if an electronic billing system was to exist. My water meter was replaced on Dec. 13, 2019, and was preceded by the replacement of my electric meter. Both had to be replaced since one communicates with the other allowing reading for both to be sent to City Hall.
I was told by a former member of the department that if the city had purchased meters manufactured by the same company, the billing delays might have been avoided. Sometimes cost determines the type of purchase, and having meters manufactured by different companies has proven to be a nightmare for city customers and City Hall.
The inability of the meters and our city’s existing billing software to sync information properly has resulted in inaccuracies and customers receiving late bills. Other errors are the result of City Hall staff billing mistakes. These problems have resulted in your last bill being higher than normal, causing customer’s anger and frustration. I am sure the people deciding to purchase these meters regret their decision and wish they had bought compatible meters. I also believe those selling us these meters regret this account and any statements pertaining to the simplicity of making the new system sync with our old software.
If you are concerned about the accuracy of your present utility bill, do the following things:
• First, do not look at the bar graph! The last February bar represents your consumption from Feb. 8, 2021 to May 15, 2021. If you wish to know your February bill consumption, subtract your first reading on the back page from the second reading for each column.
• If you were heating with propane, natural gas or wood, the electrical consumption would not be unusually high. If you were heating with electricity, cover your eyes because this single month of February may be responsible for a major part of your present three-month, one week utility bill.
• Recognize that the 1% discount is there to encourage customers to pay the entire amount all at one time. It has nothing to do with the 5% credit you will receive on next month's bill.
• Next, realize that your trash bill is for three months, not one. Lastly, remove your February electric KWHs from your previous 12 months' consumption and divide by 11 and see if it seems reasonable. To accomplish this, you will need all your old statements. If this amount is not reasonable, did you recently purchase any high-consuming electrical devices?
• Become more knowledgeable about every electrical-consuming device in your home and how long it has been in operation.
How do we go forward? The city tells us that all of the water meters have been installed. So there should be no excuse for a future late bill! Errors in readings should be nonexistent. In the future, every time you get a utility bill, record your KWH meter reading. If you do not get a monthly bill, go to City Hall and demand one so that you never get behind again.
These are things we can all do in order to understand the accuracy of our utility bills. Colder and hotter days may be coming and homeowners may need to think about home modifications to avoid future high utility bills. We all need to realize that as the population increases and more people see the need for comfort, the demand on the earth's energy sources will only become more expensive as they are depleted. So get creative and recognize what you can do to lower your energy consumption. Think about solar panels but remember they only work when the sun is out. Gasoline power generators will help you keep your refrigerators, freezers, and space heater operational when we have up-coming black outs. Get prepared.