Smart meter installation begins
Staff Reports January 5, 2012 10:42PM
Naperville city attorney Margo Ely, center, listens as lawyers voice their concerns during a Referendum Objection Meeting in Naperville's City Council Chambers about the smart meters getting put on the ballot in March on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2012 8:12AM
The hearing on an objection to placing a non-binding referendum question on the Smart Grid Initiative on the spring ballot continues at 10 a.m. Jan. 6 and 10 a.m. Jan. 9 at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.
The hearings are taking place as the city begins the installation of smart meters. A few hundred of the meters have already been installed this week in an area just north of downtown. It will take months to put in the approximately 57,000 meters which will be placed around Naperville.
The smart meters are part of the Smart Grid Initiative, which city officials have said is a needed upgrade to the city’s electrical system. The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, however, has been fighting the installation of the meters, citing health concerns and worries about hackers being able to access information through the meters.
Under the program, every customer in the city will get a new smart meter that will wirelessly communicate with the Department of Public Utilities-Electric. Customers have the option of opting out of getting the wireless smart meters. In that case the customer would get a different version that requires the information from the meter to be downloaded manually. The customer would have to pay a one-time fee of $68.35, which the city says is the difference in cost between the two meters, and also a monthly cost of $24.75 to have the meter read. The wireless meter would transmit its information without having to be manually read.
According to Naperville Community Relations Manager Nadja Lalvani, 275 meters were installed Wednesday and 278 meters were installed Thursday in the initial two days of the program. She that 16 residents refused installation on Wednesday, and 10 refused Thursday. Two people initially refused but after getting more information from the city set up dates for installation, she said.
According to Lalvani, those who refuse a smart meter need to get in contact with the city to arrange to get the alternate meter.
If the city doesn’t hear from a resident who refused a meter, it will return twice more to attempt to install a smart meter.
“The city will allow ample time” for residents to get information and make a decision on which meter they want, she said. “We want them to be clear on the options.”
If a resident still refuses the installation of the smart meter after the final visit, and doesn’t make arrangements to have the alternative meter put in, the city will then go to the site and install a smart meter. If necessary and if there is a safety concern, the installer will be accompanied by a security person.
“The safety of our employees and installers is our number one priority,” Lalvani said.
She said the city wants to give residents time to make a proper decision.
“We want this process to go smoothly,” she said.
Jennifer Stahl, a board member with Naperville Smart Meter Awareness, said the group is “very disappointed” that the city has begun installation while hearings are still going on about the proposed spring referendum on Smart Grid.
She said the fact that some people have rejected the installation is “encouraging” for her group.
“You will see more it” as the installation project continues around the city, she said.
According to Stahl, it is “disturbing” that the city has mentioned the use of security people being used as a contingency plan for those who keep refusing installation.
“We are concerned about the city trying to bully people to take a meter,” she said.
Hearing goes on
Meanwhile, the hearing on issues related to the referendum resumes Jan. 6, and will also continue on Jan. 9 as well.
Both days’ proceedings will be broadcast live and rebroadcast on government access TV station WCNC (Channel 6 - WOW, Channel 10 - Comcast, Channel 99 - AT&T) as well as streamed live and available for on-demand viewing on the city’s website at www.naperville.il.us/granicus.html.
The hearing is dealing with an objection filed on Dec. 27 by a Naperville resident to the proposed advisory referendum question stating, “Shall the city of Naperville immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million smart meter project and dismantle all related equipment?”
A petition was filed in November 2011 to place this non-binding referendum question on the March 20, 2012, Illinois primary election ballot. The Friday, Jan. 6 proceeding will allow the electoral board to publicly discuss the question of issuing subpoenas on the matter, with the hearing regarding the overall objection continuing on Monday, Jan. 9.
The hearing is before the local electoral board consisting of Mayor A. George Pradel, Naperville City Clerk Pam LaFeber and Naperville City Council member Douglas Krause. City Attorney Margo Ely advises the electoral board at the hearings.
The public is invited to attend the hearings, city officials said.
The objector to the referendum proposal, Bill Dawe, said he has concerns about the wording of the question and the validity of some of the signatures on the petition requesting the referendum. He is a member of Naperville for Clean Energy and Conservation.
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness filed the petition for the referendum. It has said it has concerns about the Smart Grid project for reasons of safety, privacy and security.
City officials have said that the smart meters are safe and pose no risk to residents’ privacy.