Ameren Missouri has been out doing its usual summer work throughout Lincoln County and western St. Charles County, completing projects and painting meters, among other things.
However, not everyone has been accepting of their presence. Suspicion of the legitimacy of Amerenís employees working in those neighborhoods has become an issue for the company. There have even been calls to the Lincoln County Sheriffís Office about whether or not real Ameren employees are working in the area, and Public Information Officer Andy Binder said the calls and concerns are more than real.
ìWe received a call there was a suspicious person in a subdivision for several days with a vehicle, which had an Ameren magnet affixed to it,î he said. ìThe vehicle did not look like a typical Ameren company vehicle. It was reported a homeowner approached the worker and inquired his reasoning for being in the subdivision, his employer and name.
ìThe encounter was reported to the Sheriffís Office.î
Emily Rau, Ameren communications executive, said the company undertands the concerns of the people it represents - and it sees a likely cause - but it can pose problems at times.
ìSince so many more people are home (because of COVID-19), people are wondering ëwhoís at my house,íî she said. ìWe have crews working every summer, and we donít want people to be alarmed by it.î
Rau also said with rising novel coronavirus cases in Lincoln and St. Charles counties, Ameren hasnít had the opportunity to travel through neighborhoods in advance before going to work in those areas - and residents have been suspicious of the companyís crews.
ìOur crews have been approached to the point of harassment,î Rau said. ìIn the past, we would canvas the area, but because of COVID-19, we havenít been able to do that.î
Ameren has been working on ways to inform the public of its presence. Targeted phone calls to customers, as well as a social media campaign will be launched soon to the spread word of when the companyís crews will be working in area neighborhoods.
The company said while itís crews have no issues with neighborhood residents approaching them, residents need to protect themselves and those around them from spreading COVID-19. Public appeals have been made, according to Ameren, but those appeals have been ignored.
ìPeople are more than welcome to come to our employees and ask for identification,î Rau said. ìWe just want them to be mindful of social distancing.î
Binder, however, said it shouldnít be the responsibilty of the residents to practice social distancing around the crews in the neighborhoods.
ìIf Ameren is concerned with residents approaching their employees without wearing a mask, then Ameren should reevaluate whether or not their crews should be in subdivisions,î he said. ìThey are in complete control over their employeesí health and safety.î
Though most Ameren employees wear full uniforms when working, suspicions still remain. Both groups agree residents should be vigilant of those posing as company employees, and report any suspicious characters to law enforcement.
ìIf residents are concerned for their safety, it is always better to call the Sheriffís Office and have us investigate those fears,î Binder said.
ìWe encourage people to call (Ameren and law enforcement) about scams,î Rau said. ìPlease call us if you see something suspicious.î
Customers can call Ameren customer service at (866) 268-3729, or go to the companyís website to report potential scams, or call law enforcement.