Homeowners warned: Look out for meter reader safety

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By Alice Du Pont

Ann Sherman, city of Quincy customer service director, says that meter readers face danger each time they attempt to read meters at some homes. During a Jan. 8 meeting with meter readers, Sherman learned obstacles created by homeowners are slowing up accuracy and "interfere with the performance of their (readers) duties."

In addition to trying to read through glass that has become opaque with age, readers have been chased by vicious dogs and have been reduced to crawling through and under overgrown shrubbery to gain access to meters.

"Both of our meter readers have been chased by pit bulls. Recently, one of the readers narrowly escaped a pit bull attack. The animal was tied up with what looked like a telephone cord. The dog broke free and chased the reader, who was lucky to scramble out of the yard before being bitten," Sherman said.

Another hazard, especially during the summer months, is overgrown shrubbery. There are times, she said, when readers must crawl beneath shrubbery to get to meters. Readers risk wasp stings, snake bites and scratches from thorns while trying to get their job done.

"All meters should be accessible. It's a matter of safety for our employees and it aids in productivity and reduces the margin of error. The longer the reader takes in one yard, the more they are thrown behind and this impacts everything else that they do," she said.

Currently meter readers read an average of 300-400 meters per day. The goal is to read all customers between 28 to 32 days. To do this the meter readers must maintain a schedule and eliminating obstacles would increase productivity by 10-15 percent, according to Sherman.

Customers with vicious dogs will be issued door hangers regarding restraining their pets. All vicious dogs will also be reported to the Quincy Police Department. Those customers with vicious dogs will receive "estimated" bills.

Customers with overgrown shrubbery will also be issued door hangers regarding the need to keep their shrubbery trimmed. Those customers will also received "estimated" bills until the problem is abated.

"I will not put the lives and limbs of meter readers at risk," Sherman said.