BLOOMINGTON - Twin City meter readers are going the way of the full-service gas station attendant, the typewriter repairman and the milkman.
Ameren IP's final eight meter readers will transition into new jobs as the company begins plans to provide automated meter reading systems to about 61,000 customers in the Bloomington-Normal area. The new system will provide more exact and timely readings, and allow the company to better respond to problems.
The bulk of the work to switch from the manual electric meters is expected to be completed by April with any stragglers finished by early to mid-summer, said Peter Millburg, supervisor of metering, at a press conference Tuesday.
The meter readers who now serve the area have been offered opportunities to move into other jobs within the company, though some personnel may need to be relocated, Millburg said.
The local work is part of a project to expand the automated meter reading system to 1.1 million meters, or about half of Ameren's meters in Illinois, by 2009. Work to exchange meters in Champaign and Danville is nearly completed, and the planned expansion also includes such university towns and larger municipalities as Peoria, Charleston and Carbondale, said Bruce Hollibaugh, project manager. Ameren declined to release a cost for the program.
To get a reading, the meter system sends a radio signal to Ameren, providing real time data, Millburg said.
The system virtually eliminates estimated readings, giving customers a more accurate bill. The meter also reports when the power is out, which helps Ameren identify and better respond to problems.
Customers should still report outages, too, but "if someone's at work during the day and their power goes out, we'll be able to tell," Millburg said.
Another service that will improve are readings when customers move in and out of properties.
Now, it can take several days before Ameren staff can schedule read dates for customers who are moving, Millburg said. That would not be the case with the automated reading meters, he said.
"We'll be able to get in and get meter readings on the dates that they want," Millburg said.
Automated meter reading technology has proven itself in Missouri where Ameren has installed 1.3 million readers, said Craig Gilson, manager of Ameren Illinois Division III, of which Bloomington is a part.
Ameren was one of the first companies to begin using AMR in 1995, and it's becoming more commonplace across the country, Millburg said.
Corn Belt Energy Corp. and Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative also have installed automated meter reading systems in Central Illinois.
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.