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Smart meters concerning residents in Comanche

COMANCHE, Okla. - Residents in Comanche said they're seeing higher electricity bills after the city installed smart meters for their homes.

Brenda Anderson lives in Comanche with her boyfriend, Jeff Miley. She said they typically pay about $260 a month for the electricity, which is owned and operated by the city of Comanche.

However, Anderson told News 4 she and other residents have seen an uptick in their bills since the new smart meters were installed in May.

"Last month, when we got the first bill that was the 400 dollar bill, I actually called down to the city and asked them… 'Are you sure the smart meters are reading the right way?'" she said.

The couple said their most recent bill this summer was nearly $600, despite trying to cut back on energy usage.

"I started shutting down… everything that we did not use, unplugged freezers," Miley said. "I mean like… I have nothing running. We limited our pool pump, lights, TV action, I mean everything."

Anderson said she's not only concerned for her household but, also, the people she cares for as a home health nurse. She said her patients have had to ask themselves hard questions because of their latest bills.

"'Are we going to get our medication? Are we going to get food?' They’re limiting themselves to one rooms in their homes with a wall unit," she said.

Like Anderson and Miley, Bradley Elroy said he has noticed an uptick in his most recent electricity bills. Elroy has lived in Comanche for seven years and said he is used to paying about $230 a month.

"We’ve actually seen a $100 increase," he said. "We’re short on a house payment now because we’re trying to keep the power on. In Oklahoma… in 110 degree weather, you can’t let the air go off. You cannot let it go off."

Elroy said he and his family are planning to move this month, partly because of high electricity costs.

Comanche city manager Chuck Ralls said the meters were installed in May because they were safer to use and more efficient.

According to Ralls, the new meters are easier to monitor if they are being tampered with.

"We had a significant amount of theft equating to thousands of dollars on a monthly basis where people were going in and tampering with meters by passing meters and stealing from the city," he said. "The new meters, they communicate cellularly, so they tell us back at the office. We can just push buttons essentially and the reading off of the meter, so it saves us a lot of time and effort, certainly improves efficiency."

Ralls told News 4 his office has received two formal complaints about the new meters. However, their records show the city has increased usage over the past year.

"Looking back in our prior year in June, the city had an increase of 195,000 kilowatts over the prior year in just that one month. That’s a significant increase for a city our size," he said.

He maintains the meters would not have been installed if there was a concern over inaccurate reporting and there are several other factors when it comes to higher bills.

"Equipment gets older, refrigerators, deep freezers, air conditioning systems… as they age, they have the tendency to use more electricity. The warmer months — are using more for the heating and cooling," he said.

The city of Comanche does offer free energy audits.

Ralls urges any residents who are concerned over their bills to call him. He said he is happy to sit down and review their usage.

The office of the City Manager of Comanche is located at 500 Rodeo Drive and can be reached at 580-439-8868.