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Utility bills might be off because of superstorm Sandy

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Utility customers in West Virginia should not be alarmed when they receive their next bill, the state Public Service Commission advised Thursday.

Electric company employees from Appalachian Power, Mon Power, Potomac Edison and Wheeling Power were taken off their regular duties -- such as reading meters -- in the companies' effort to restore power as quickly as possible.

As a result, more customers than normal will get estimated bills instead of actual bills in the next billing cycle, the PSC said in a statement.

Under normal circumstances, residential customers' electric bills alternate monthly from actual usage one month and an estimated bill based on last year's usage for the same period the next month.

Estimated bills will not take into account that a customer might not have had power for a portion of the month for which the bill is estimated, the PSC said.

However, the PSC assures customers that their bill will be accurate as of their next billing cycle, based on actual reading.

"Customers whose bills are estimated, it will 'true up,'" said Susan Small, spokeswoman for the PSC. "Their next bill may be a little off because all utilities had to rearrange their priorities to get everybody back up. When the power companies have to take meter readers off their regular duties to help direct trucks around or because of heavy snowfall, they couldn't read meters but, in the end, it will true up."

Some gas customers could receive up to three estimated bills in a row if they live somewhere that was inaccessible or unsafe for employees.

West Virginia American Water customers also might get estimated bills this month. While the water company's meter readers performed their jobs, some meters were unreachable because of heavy snowfall.

Customers who went without water should expect to see lower bills, according to the PSC.

The PSC requires telephone companies to prorate bills when phone service is interrupted or inoperative for more than 24 hours "from the time it is reported or known to exist by the telephone company." Telephone customers should contact their phone company to request a bill adjustment.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 14,000 Mon Power customers, including more than 3,000 each in Preston and Randolph counties, were still without power. The company said it plans to have service fully restored by the weekend. Appalachian Power had restored power to all its customers in West Virginia, according to the company's website.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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