If city residents don't make their electric meters easier for city personnel to read, the city will do the reading electronically at a cost of $60 per household - an action that shocked some residents.

Murray City has been inundated with calls since the city's attorney sent letters to more than 800 residents informing them of the city's new policy.On or before July 1, 1991, residents must relocate any fences or gates to provide accessibility to their electric meters. Animals must either be restrained or relocated so every meter can be read by city personnel.

"If physical changes cannot be made, remote electronic meter reading devices must be installed by Murray City," wrote city attorney H. Craig Hall in an April 18th letter. "Your cost of the device, plus city installation, will be about $60."

Hall's letter ignited substantial response.

"We've had about 100 calls. Surprisingly, most people are saying they will make their meters accessible. They will leave their gate open," said Deane VanWagenen, customer services supervisor, Murray City Utilities.

"The minority have said they don't feel it's in their best interest to do that, but they are willing to have the remote installed."

A few haven't been so agreeable. They want Murray to follow the example of Utah Power & Light Co., whose meter readers follow a schedule.

Customers know when to provide access to meter readers - and do so. Only 2-3 percent don't cooperate. UP&L meter readers make appointments with those customers.

"One of our representatives makes prior arrangements to let customers know when the meter is going to be read," said Ingrid Davis, meter reading supervisor for UP&L's Summit Region.

If that fails, the utility sends out postcards to let customers know when they are supposed to read the meter and return the card to UP&L.

"That way we get it in a timely fashion and can estimate their billing," Davis said. "This is done only after every attempt has been made to get in to read the meter."

VanWagenen said in light of a rising crime rate, "you can't blame people for wanting to protect their property." But Murray doesn't have the manpower to make appointments to service 15,000 electric meters.

The city used to leave meter-reader cards for customers to fill out, "and we had fairly good success with these," she said. "But a city ordinance passed last July requires us to read and physically examine those meters every six months."

Davis admits UP&L couldn't be so forceful.

"Municipalities have a different way of operating than a public utility. They have a lot more leverage in their operations than a public utility in that they can put liens on your property if you don't comply - or even shut your power off," she said. "We are very customer oriented and try to do everything we can to help the customer understand it's better and cheaper in the long run for both of us if we can get in and sight read their meters."


3 options

Murray customers have three options to ensure utility workers can gauge electricity consumption:

-Give the city a key to their gates or homes. (About 100 meters are inside of older homes).

-Leave their gates unlocked and animals restrained.

-Pay $60 for a remote electronic meter reading device.