According to KU spokesman Cliff Feltham, officials from both his office in Lexington and the Harlan office have spent many hours re-reading the meters of customers who have reported complaints of high bills for December, and no inadequacies have been found.
"We have found no mistakes in the reading of the meters that we have re-read and can only attribute the extra charges to more electrical consumption due to the cold weather," said Feltham. "There were no problems found with any of the meters, and they all showed to be working properly."
Feltham added that the high usage of electricity is just "one of those things that happens" when the temperatures drop drastically, and that Friday morning's colder than usual temperatures will probably have an impact on the next billing statement as well.
Feltham also said there was no evidence that a new employee may have read the meters in December, as has been rumored. However, he did acknowledge that December's readings were performed for the first time by employees of Tru-Check, which is a new contracting company that has been assigned to read the KU meters.
"We switched from a company reader to the contract company in December, but they were trained by our people, and it shows that they made no mistakes on the reading of the meters," Feltham said. "We have had several people come into the Harlan area from Lexington, as well as representatives at the Harlan office who have spoken with our customers, and some of them who had complaints were assigned a single customer representative in order to help them understand their billing statements."
Feltham also said that even though there are times when customers request a re-reading of their meters, the requests were more frequent this month.
Although there have been a few meters that did show a small difference when re-read, Feltham said the number of these customers have been "few and far between."
Feltham said KU officials do not want to see customers' rates go up and they are willing to work to help people save money on their electricity bills.
"We are in the process of working with the sheriff's office to help people understand the reasons for their electricity bill increase, and we are confident that the situation will be worked out," said Feltham.
Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird said although KU officials have contacted his office and have tried to help with the situation, many customers still do not understand how the rates could have increased so dramatically as the result of just a few days of colder weather.
Lipfird and Sheriff's Chaplain Corps captain Bill Ball set up a temporary e-mail address recently to field complaints from customers who have seen a huge increase of their bills.
"I have been taking the e-mails and giving them to KU officials, and I will continue to give them copies of the e-mails as they come in," said Lipfird. "They (KU officials) have offered to let me pick the customers and go out with them on Monday to re-read meters and to talk with people, and I told them that I would gladly go with them."
Lipfird said although he does give KU officials credit for their attempt to help people understand the situation with the high bills, he still does not understand how they could have become so high.
"(KU officials) have sat down and tried to explain this to us - they basically want to throw these formulas at us - but it is still hard to figure out how this could have happened. It's like I told them: If a person goes to buy a new car one day and it is, say, $25,000, and they take some time to think it over and they then go back to buy it and they find the price has gone up to $75,000, of course they are not going to buy it."
Lipfird said his office became involved with the situation because of his concern for the people of the county, and he understands that they cannot afford these high increases in their electricity bills.
Feltham said KU officials understand this as well and that they plan to offer some in-depth tips on how to conserve energy and save money on electricity bills available sometime next week.