Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


March 10, 2014

Technology replaces meter readers

GLASGOW — Terry Morgan had been reading electricity meters for Glasgow Electric Plant Board for more than two decades.

“I was kind of getting ready to retire and go inside,” he said. “I’ll be 70 in May.”

Morgan and two others are the last of the contractors who physically went from address to address to determine how many kilowatt hours an EPB customer used over the course of a month. The EPB is nearly finished making the transition to Internet-based meters that electronically send that information every 15 minutes.

As of March 1, only about 100 meters were left to replace with the new model, and that was the day after the contracts expired for Morgan, Jimmy Mortimer and Clifton Elmore.

Actually, Morgan said, their normal contract had expired three months earlier, but that it was extended wasn’t a surprise.

A fellow Glasgow Fire Department firefighter at the time, Leland Hogue, started reading the meters in 1993 and Morgan later started helping him. Eventually, Hogue retired from doing the readings and Morgan briefly looked for someone else to help him, but couldn’t find anyone he felt he could trust who only wanted part-time work.

“You didn’t make enough money to have it for a full-time job, but you couldn’t work a full-time job and do this,” he said.

The meters had to be read within a 48-hour period before or after the designated date, but they tried to keep it as close to that date as possible, because customers on a fixed income needed their bills to be consistent, particularly elderly folks who only got Social Security checks, he said.

When he didn’t find anyone right away, he asked to do it on his own and was able to convince EPB’s Jim Searcy, who has since passed away, to let him try it. Searcy convinced EPB Superintendent Billy Ray, Morgan said.

“I considered it a full-time job when I was doing it myself,” Morgan said, adding that meter readers got paid by the meter, so if more people did it, it was just more ways the money was split. “Jimmy and Clifton have helped for about the last eight years. I knew I could trust them.”

Mortimer is his nephew and he’d known Elmore almost all his life, he said.

Only occasionally would there be an issue with a dog or someone who insisted on keeping a fence gate locked to prevent access, he said.

“All in all, I had a real good experience for the whole 20 years,” Morgan said. “Sure, (I’ll miss it). I really enjoyed it. I like being outside anyway, but I’m getting where I can’t walk as well anyway.”

He thinks the Internet-based meters are a great thing, because they allow customers to set up an online account to access a portal where they can track their electricity usage throughout the month.

“You don’t have any reason not to know how much your bill is before it comes,” he said.

Even people without a computer surely have a friend or family member with Internet access through which they could check the account.

Although very few people even try to do it anymore, this system also prevents customers from placing their meter upside down so that it doesn’t count their usage, he said.

Elmore had sold his body shop and farm when he turned 65, but then he decided he needed to be doing something, he said. A year or so later, he started reading meters.

“It was a lot of walking,” Elmore said, adding that it was good for him. “It’s kind of enjoyable. … I got bit by one dog, but it didn’t amount to anything. [The job] ran pretty good as far as I was concerned.”

He’s 75 now, and although he won’t be reading meters, he’ll still be getting exercise on the farm he’s purchased where he raises cattle and grows hay. Elmore said he plans on keeping busy “till I drop.”

Mortimer said that as his uncle was getting older, he brought on him and Elmore to help with the meter reading.

“We thought it would just be for about a year, but it ended up being eight and a half years,” Mortimer said. “To me, it was the best part-time job a person could have. It was very flexible and the pay was decent.”

The only down side was the two months of extreme winter and two months of extreme summer; otherwise, it was “eight months of beautiful Kentucky weather,” he said.

“People would be out walking for exercise, and we were out walking, getting paid for it, so it worked out pretty good,” Mortimer said. “I’m kind of spoiled. I don’t think there’s another flexible part-time job that would satisfy me as well as that job did.”

The schedule worked well with his other ventures, as the real estate investor owns several rental homes. He has plenty to keep him occupied now, but he already misses the other job, which had been slowly phased out over several months, he said.

“We started out with about 13 days per month. It just started getting shorter and shorter, and then we were down to one day,” he said.

He said he’s started going to a gym to get the exercise he used to get on the job.

“I’ve already gained 10 pounds,” Mortimer said.

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