Council says residents can avoid smart meters
By Hank Beckman For Sun-Times Media October 4, 2011 10:16PM
City of Naperville worker Cyrus Ashrafi shows off old meters and the new smart meters during a city event to inform residents on the Smart Grid Initiative earlier this year. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2011 8:38AM
At a contentious meeting that had to be halted once, Naperville City Council approved by a 7-to-1 vote an option to let residents avoid the smart meters to be placed around town.
The work-around includes a one-time installation fee of $68 to install the alternative meters, and an additional monthly charge of $25 to have them read.
The $22 million Smart Grid Initiative involves the installation of about 57,000 smart meters around the city, with completion targeted for July 2012. Just a few trial meters have been installed at this point.
City officials have said the Smart Grid will enable customers to better monitor their energy use and allow for more efficient use of power.
However, there has been a steady opposition from some residents concerned with safety, arguing that even people who opted out of the program were still affected by the radiation emitted by all the meters being placed around the city.
Director of Public Utilities/Electric Mark Curran gave a brief outline of the project’s history, and Councilman Joe McElroy made it a point to ask him when the project was approved, and he clarified that it was 2011.
Councilman Doug Krause dissented and spoke against letting the project go forward without further testing of the new meters. “On July 8, we said ‘we’re going to wait and see what the testing is,’” Krause said.
But most of his colleagues took issue with his position.
Councilman Grant Wehrli said there is “nothing to indicate that there is a problem” with the project.
During public comment, things quickly got heated.
Resident Jennifer Stahl said that other cities were declaring moratoriums on Smart Grid implementation, including 47 municipalities in California, she said.
“We support green,” she said, “but the solution you’ve chosen is not right for Naperville.”
Dave Bendis spoke passionately against the project. He said that school districts had to go to the public for referendums before embarking on such a large project.
Members of the audience broke into applause several times, and Steve Chirico, acting as president pro tem of the City Council in the absence of Mayor A. George Pradel, called a 10-minute recess after two warnings to the audience.
After the break, Curran responded to Krause’s concern about the quality of the meters.
“There’s nothing wrong with the meters,” he said. “We just have to finish the communications network.”
All told, about 20 people spoke against the project.
Residents Thomas Glass and George Isaac both expressed concerns about security.
Glass showed a presentation that found the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles was found to have given citizens’ private information to marketers. Isaac cautioned against the danger of professional hackers breaking into the meters.
Barbara Serbick agreed, saying, “they are invasive to our homes.”
Before the vote, council members had their say.
McElroy defended the project.
“At this stage of the game, we are where we are,” he said, noting that the vote was on the work-around option, not whether or not there would be the Smart Grid program.
McElroy said he understood the concerns of those in opposition, but pointed out that they could be wrong about the risks.
Councilman Bob Fieseler said that even if it were possible to waive the installation fee, Illinois law prohibited the practice. He also said that he felt people afraid of the possible health effects could not be convinced otherwise, but said that it would take 2,000 smart meters to equal the effect of one microwave oven.
During the council members’ remarks, police escorted out two audience members for interrupting the meeting.
After the vote, Stahl said she isn’t giving up, saying that the work-around program is not what the opposition is looking for.
“We want our analogue meters,” she said.