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Town considers whether smart meters are a dumb idea

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

Carbondale may soon join a growing contingent of cities and towns resisting the installation of so-called “smart meters” by utility companies, out of concern that the new-fangled meters might pose health hazards, privacy violations and other problems for residents.

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For their part, according to a wealth of online reports, utilities are hoping to modernize their distribution of and billing for electricity and natural gas supplies, by creating a metering system that more closely monitors energy use in homes and businesses.

The issue arose at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, when local naturopathic doctor Jody Powell urged the trustees to consider passing a moratorium on the installations.

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She said the new metering system revolves around meters installed on the outside of homes and businesses that sends out energy-use information via radio waves, which she said are suspected of posing risks for cancer and behavioral problems for residents of homes where the meters have been installed.

She also said the meters are suspected of causing house fires in some instances, where the meters are said to have caught fire that went undetected by smoke detectors installed inside the homes in question.

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Powell referred the trustees to a website, www.bioinitiative.org, for more information about the hazards that electromagnetic radiation can pose to human health.

“A lot of local governments have passed ordinances, passed moratoriums against this,” she told the trustees, speaking during the meeting-time allotted to “persons present not on the agenda.”

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Powell’s testimony was backed up by Gary Duncan, director of the Smart Shelter Network, based in Oklahoma but with an office in southern Colorado, that also is opposed to the smart-meter movement.

“My personal recommendation is that you put a stop to these meters being installed right now,” he told the trustees. “It’s being railroaded” by the utility industry.

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And while the trustees did not immediately climb onto the anti-smart-meter bandwagon, they did call for more information.

The trustees also went along with an invitation to Holy Cross Energy, the utility that serves about a third of the town and either plans to start installing the meters soon or has already begun, to come to the next trustee meeting to discuss the issue.

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Mayor Stacey Bernot, following Powell’s remarks, said that as far as she knows Holy Cross is the only locally-serving utility that is planning to install smart meters, and that the utility has offered an “opt-out” provision for property owners.

“Having the ability to opt out is good,” Bernot commented, though she added that she was not sure how involved the town government should or could be in limiting the use of the devices.

Town Manager Jay Harrington reported that officials had heard that any such installations would come “much later in Carbondale,” but added, “that schedule has changed.”

He said that he has heard that some locals already have taken the opt-out alternative, and reported that Holy Cross has indicated it is willing to send a representative to the next trustee meeting to talk about the matter.

Other trustee actions on Tuesday included:

• Approval of the final round of documents needed for the start of initial construction of the Thompson Park residential development project along Highway 133.

• Approval of changes to Carbondale’s cannabis regulations, extending a cap on local cannabis businesses to 2017 and modifying the rules about licensing procedures, personal possession, cultivation, processing and storing of commercial cannabis supplies

• A liquor license renewal for the Beijin-Tokyo restaurant, and a liquor license transfer from the defunct Taste Garden restaurant to a new business in the same location, Ming’s Cafe, operated by Michael Zhang.

• The hiring of Frontier Paving to perform street repairs in the Barber Drive section of town at a cost of $237,477.

Published in The Sopris Sun on May 14, 2015.
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