FirstEnergy customers could get 'catch up' bill from estimates after Old Man Winter blocked meters

AKRON, Ohio - This brutal weather has messed with the pipes in our homes, our body core temperature and our mental psyche. Now comes word that Old Man Winter's wrath may behind surprising electric bills.

Specifically, you may soon receive a higher than expected "catch up" bill.

FirstEnergy, based out of Akron, reports that heavy snowfall has reduced access to electric meters over the past few months.

Therefore, many customers are receiving estimating bills based on customer usage the same time last year. Last winter was significantly warmer, so those bills may reflect lower than actual usage.

The catch is, your next bill may be higher to make up for actual usage not calculated in previous bills.

Ron Green, Vice President of customer service for FirstEnergy, said it's difficult to say how much higher the next bill could be for those who received estimated charges, but he estimated some customers could potentially see a 25 percent increase.

"You're really only billed for the electricity that you use, and unfortunately, if we're not able to read a meter, we have to estimate the bill," Green said.

Cory Bulgrin, a meter reader, said this winter has been the worst year for "no reads." The problem, he explained, is that many meters can't be read due to being frozen or blocked by snow.

Even with the weather warming, Bulgrin experienced a problem getting access to a meter in a West Akron backyard a gate was frozen and so was a sandbag in front of it.

He said the conditions have made doing the job very difficult. He said on many days 10 to 15 meters have been blocked by snow or ice.

"First you have the snow. Then you get the ice. Then you get the drifting snow, the blowing snow and the cold temperatures," Bulgrin said.

Meter readers have also had to limit their exposure to the cold temperatures, which also results in more estimated readings.

"On a good day, you may walk 10, 12 up to 15 miles a day. On a day like today, you're going to keep your car close to warm up, so you might cut that in half," Bulgrin said.

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