Chambersburg utility customers might be wondering about the figures on this month’s utility bills. The bills don’t necessarily reflect exactly how much water, gas and electricity customers used in the 30-day billing period, but are estimated.
Thank the Coronavirus pandemic for that. To protect employees and customers, the borough is estimating this month’s bills instead of reading meters this month.
Borough officials say the bills are accurate, however. They were based upon an estimate officials say is realistic for each utility account.
In the past, from time to time, circumstances have forced individual accounts to be estimated for one reason or another. This is the first time that all utility accounts were issued estimated invoices simultaneously.
Council approved a change to the system at it’s Monday meeting. Beginning in May, most utility invoices will return to being calculated by actual utility consumption rather than an estimation. At that time, the readings will be adjusted by subtracting the estimated readings from the actual usage.
Meter readers currently retrieve consumption information, throughout the borough system using hand held computer devices. Those devices require the meter reader to be near the meter device.
How meters are read
In some systems, meter data is transmitted through radio waves or the internet to billing clerks. Chambersburg does not yet have such a system installed, but hopes to have one over the next few years.
“We have a large number of older buildings throughout our community,” Stonehill said. “We have meters in basements, crawl spaces, in vaults, and in some unusual spots. Sometimes moving the meter is expensive or impractical for the customer.”
Inaccessible, hard to reach utility meters or those requiring physical interaction with customers will continue to be estimated going forward.
It is assumed that will be about 20% of all utility meters. The borough doesn’t currently have a list of customers with inaccessible meters, however.
The utility department is putting together a list on a case-by-case basis. Customers who continue to get estimated utility invoices will be notified with a letter explaining the reason.
“We hope that most customers understand the complexity of this process and the need to keep our employees safe during this health crisis,” Stonehill said. “We want to provide our utility customers with accurate bills, but not at the expense of employee safety.”
Disconnections suspended through May
The Borough of Chambersburg voluntarily suspended utility disconnections in March 2020. That prohibition on disconnection will continue throughoaut May 2020.
Chambersburg is unique in that it is the only municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to operate most public utilities including electricity, water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, natural gas, and sanitation.
“No other Borough is as heavily involved in the delivery of utilities as the Borough of Chambersburg,” explained Stonehill. “During this crisis, it was imperative that the Borough make plans to address the needs and challenges of the community.”
If customers have any questions about Chambersburg’s utility bills, customers should call Customer Service at (717) 264-5151 or by email at [email protected]
Currently Customer Service is best contacted by phone or email as Borough buildings are not accessible to unescorted citizens during the COVID-19 health crisis.