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Ameren is a coming

Following the power outages of the summer of 2006, Ameren UE began tackling a lot of deferred maintenance. In the two years since those massive thunderstorms passed through St. Louis, Ameren has made some big strides in clearing overhanging branches from local power lines. Now it’s onto the next phase of the cleanup process: your properties.

I actually had to meet with someone from Ameren at my rehab project yesterday to discuss moving the location of the electric meter and power line connection at the house. During our housing conservation inspection for the sale of the property, the city cited us because the power line was connected too low on the house. This Ameren representative met me to discuss where we could move the connection to.

So why is this something you should care about? From what I am told, Ameren will soon be having similar discussions with many property owners throughout the area. I was having a hard time getting the Ameren rep to compromise on where to move the service to so I kept referring to other buildings nearby. I kept mentioning that since they connected in a certain spot, it should be okay for me to do so as well. She was hesitant in her response, but she finally admitted that using neighboring buildings as a reference wouldn’t cut it as they would all have to change soon too.

Apparently this is the next phase of Ameren’s plan to clean up the electric system in the area. They have sent inspectors throughout the city to cataloge the setups of electric meters and connection points on each building. Those properties with incorrectly arranged configurations will be notified that they need to be corrected or risk having their service shut off. She didn’t give an exact timetable, but I got the impression that letters to this effect would be going out before next summer.

Their argument for doing this is to ensure the safety of their customers and their workman. They also want to make sure that wires are easily accessible so they can gain quick access in the event of another outage. They want to cut down the turnaround times in returning service when it goes out.

Now these goals are all fine and good, but this action strikes me as somewhat out of line. Consider that at some point in time Ameren agreed to connect service to all these properties. Before doing so, they looked at the setup and determined that it was fine. Now they plan to come back and make you fix it. They change their standards and the general public has to pay for it. It just doesn’t make sense.

To move my service is going to cost about $600 including the cost of permits. While that is cheaper than I had feared, it isn’t chump change. I can afford it in my situation, but what about all those homeowners out there on a shoestring budget who are going to be blindsided by this. There may be more to the sitautoin than I was led to beleive, but then again, there may not.

So what if one of your properties ends up as one of the targets of Ameren’s efforts? What kind of restrictions do you have to work within? I am no expert on these matters, but these are a few of the restrictions I do know of:

  • The line connection to the house must be at least 11′ from any walkway or doorway
  • The meter nor the line connection can be above a stairwell
  • The line connection must be no closer than 3′ away from any door or window opening. However, if the top of the window is fixed, the distance restriction only applies to the bottom of the window.
  • There needs to be at least 3′ of work area between the meter and any obstruction. For instance, the meter could not be installed in a gangway that is only 32″ wide.

Considering the fact that most buildings in St. Louis City predate these standards, there are going to be a lot of buildings that literally cannot meet all these parameters. I ran into this problem with my property, but after being told I had to install the line underground, I finally managed to get them to compromise a little. Hopefully they do the same with others in the future.

As I said before, this hasn’t been officially confirmed, but this Ameren official was pretty open about it once I got her talking. It will be interesting to see what kind of backlash this is going to receive when this goes public.

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Matt Kastner

Matt Kastner is an Investment Real Estate Consultant at St. Louis Real Estate Society in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also develops properties on the side through Threshold Properties. When he isn’t representing investors in the purchase or sale of multifamily properties, rehabs, foreclosures and other income producing properties, he is often taking on rehab projects himself. He lives in South St. Louis and has been in the real estate business since 2004.

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