City will temporarily estimate some water bills because of freezing weather

The city will not be reading some water meters because of the extremely cold weather forecast, and will instead be estimating bills for those customers.

Utility Billing Manager Kristen Webb said Thursday that five water meter routes in eastern Lawrence will be postponed because of frigid temperatures, requiring the city to estimate the water bills of 1,200 to 1,400 customers.

Webb said that after next month’s meter reading cycle, the bills of those customers will be adjusted up or down so that customers ultimately pay for the actual consumption.

“If we overestimated or underestimated, we make that right,” Webb said. “It all levels up with that next good read.”

Until then, Webb said the city’s billing system will calculate the estimated amount by averaging the customer’s consumption the previous month and the past year. For customers whose meter reading is estimated, an “E” will appear on their utility bill under the “EST” column.

The city is not running the five routes, all east of Iowa Street, to help protect the water meters from freezing. Webb explained that the meters are set in a pit in the ground, and opening the cover to read the meter introduces more cold air.

“In this kind of frigid cold weather, meters could still freeze, but if we can minimize how often we are getting into the pit, that will help,” Webb said.

Subfreezing temperatures are forecast for next week, with a few days’ high temperatures predicted to be in the teens or lower.

If customers have questions about their utility bills, they can call 785-832-7878. For questions about a frozen meter, call 785-832-7800.