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Montrose council hears meter concerns

Town meeting suggested to educate residents on smart meters
Montrose resident Mario Como spoke on behalf of a coalition of fellow residents against smart meters at Monday night’s Montrose council meeting. The group looks to host a town hall meeting to further educate fellow villagers on the new devices.

A Montrose resident dead-set against wireless smart meters found out that he's not just a “lone wolf,” a message further delivered by a delegation to council Monday night.

Mario Como and his pack of seven concerned residents shared their views on FortisBC's Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, asking council to get behind a town hall meeting that would educate Montrose residents from the perspective of a company representative but also an electro-magnetic radiation expert.

“It's like betting on a horse race that's already run,” he told council. “Waiting is no option, we have to act now.”

While all of council supported such a meeting, waiving the rental fee to boot, only Coun. Mary Gay thought that the invite should come from the elected officials.

“I don't think this falls under our jurisdiction,” argued Montrose Mayor Joe Danchuk.  “It's not our meeting, is what I'm trying to say.”

Clearly flustered by the outcome, Gay looked stern sitting cross armed. She's worried that the coalition won't be taken seriously and that the company would be a no show.

“If Fortis doesn't come to the town hall meeting then what are they afraid of? That's the way I look at it,” she said.

The coalition urged council to stand up for little Montrose. Resident Deb Sedgwick reminded the elective representatives that it was the village's fight for their school that changed government policy on how schools are closed in the province and that this is no time to roll over.

“To say that you cannot speak for everyone is true but as the elective reps for this community, there are many times that decisions are made that not all taxpayers agree with, but this is your job,” she said, pleading them to hold a meeting to gauge where residents stand.

Eileen Como was there to support her husband but also added her opinion. She said that a message from corporations is often readily available but rarely balanced.

“The tobacco industry and the sugar industry for years covered up information that should have been made known to the public and never happened,” she said. “Now we have smart meters on the horizon and people aren't being told about them.

“People are quite naive, really, when it comes to them.”

Her husband made his case, one that has been a growing process for him since he first began to educate himself on the new meters. What he found was rather scary, he said, counting the environmental and health risks among many points.

Como is not against wired automated devices and wishes B.C. would follow suit with Alberta but said the choice has been “money over health.”

He is fearful for the compromised like fellow resident Willard White, who has a pacemaker. Pointing to BioInitiative 2012 (, biologically-based exposure standards for low-intensity electromagnetic radiation, Como argued that low levels of radiation are just as harmful.

Opting out will cost you, he suggested, airing his disgust with Energy Minister Bill Bennett.

“As far as I'm concerned this is a bullying tactic in the government's part and it is absolutely extortion and nobody should take that because the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) is their own entity and they shouldn't be influenced by the government,” he added.

The company maintains that advanced meters were approved after expert health witnesses presented extensive evidence to the BCUC during a public regulatory process but potential guest speaker

Jerry Flynn, a retired Canadian military expert in electronic warfare, sees it differently.

Among many points, Flynn has been quoted for his concern that the province's own Public Health Act does not even mention electromagnetic radiation, which he said independent scientists globally claim is the biggest single threat to human health in this century.

“I am concerned, disappointed and angry that BCUC is allowing FortisBC to charge customers an opt-out fee for wanting nothing more than to simply protect themselves and their families from chronic low-level, non-thermal pulsed microwave radiation, which non-industry funded scientists around the world now know causes cancer,” he noted in a letter to the premier.

At a previous Montrose meeting, chief administrative officer Kevin Chartres Montrose explained that council cannot make a unilateral decision to opt out the village's residences.

The $51 million AMI project affects 130,000 FortisBC electrical customers, in homes and businesses stretching from Princeton in the west, through the Okanagan and West Kootenay, to Creston in the east.

“Advanced meters will pay for themselves by nearly eliminating the expense of manual meter reading," Neil Pobran, corporate communications manager, told the Times last month.

The devices, which record consumption of electric energy and communicates it back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes, will be installed starting next year with an expected completion date by the end of 2015.