Citizens responding to complaints raised at ACC meeting

Citizens Arizona Gas is responding to every billing complaint voiced during a recent Arizona Corporation Commission hearing in Kingman, a company spokesman said.

"We found meter reading mistakes in about half the cases," said Tom Broderick, director of business development.

"With new people reading 13,000 meters, mistakes happen.

We added training and are correcting it."

The most common mistake was reading gas use too low in November and then correcting the mistake with December's meter reading

"When that reading error happened in November before gas usage jumped in the cold December weather, gas usage was shown even higher than it was," Broderick said.

"It some cases the meter was misread and we made corrections."

Several customers complained that meter readers drove into the driveway and read meters without getting out of the truck.

"That is usually correct procedure," he said.

"The reader has binoculars and can read from the truck.

That is the only way 13,000 meters can be read in the time allotted."

He said new meter readers have been given extra training for accuracy and quickness.

Several customers complained about the numbers not adding up with the company's claim that the increase was 27 to 31 percent.

Broderick said explanations are being given to customers to help them better understand.

He said the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) portion of the bill is made up of a 15-cent increase approved by the ACC in September and 19 cents already included for rolling 12-month price increases in wholesale gas prices.

"That 15 cents is in the 27 to 31 percent increase over the 44 cents charged per therm prior to the October bill," he said.

Before October, 25 cents of the 44 cents was for gas usage and 19 cents was the previously approved wholesale gas price adjustment, he said.

Customers can get more information on the company Web site at www.citizensaz.com.

Broderick said Citizens has several programs to help people pay higher gas bills and to weatherize homes to reduce gas usage.

Qualified customers can get a 15 percent decrease for up to 100 therms per month during winter months.

Budget payments allow for the same bill amount each month so that the impact is spread over 12 months.

He recommended this schedule for those on limited monthly incomes.

Citizens gives money to state agencies in a program called "warm spirit." The funds are used to help people in emergencies.

Broderick said low-income people in poorly insulated homes do get higher gas usage when temperatures drop.

"For most customers, the best defense may be to turn down the thermostat to 65 degrees or less," he said.

"For some of the elderly in poor health, that is not a good idea."

Broderick said all customer complaints and questions are being addressed and information given to the ACC.

All customer questions are important and Citizens Arizona Gas will respond, he said.

The company said customers should check its Web site for information about improving home insulation before next winter.

"We are almost through this cold weather cycle," Broderick said.

"Customers can use the warm months to weatherize the home and reduce next winter's gas use."