Smart meter meeting draws small crowd

Despite a disappointing public turnout, Mary Gay isn't giving up her cause to stop wireless smart meters.

Mary Gay isn’t giving up her cause to stop wireless smart meters even though public interest seems to be powering down.

The Montrose councillor has been a staunch opponent to FortisBC’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, especially since the company announced in August that AMI will move forward following a lengthy approval process.

Gay, a member of the West Kootenay Coalition to Stop Smart Meters, was an organizer for an educational meeting held in the Trail Memorial Centre Thursday night.

Anticipating a large turnout, the venue was changed to Trail from the Montrose a few weeks ago, but according to Gay, less than 50 people showed up.

“It was disappointing that more people didn’t show up,” she said. “But we did get people from Fruitvale to Grand Forks and there were definitely some new faces in the crowd.”

Although the Coalition invited Blair Weston from FortisBC to attend on behalf of the company, the Powersense technical advisor from the Trail offices was a no show, confirmed Gay.

She maintains that the lack of support by elected officials and no company representation during the public event meant that the coalition and meeting wasn’t taken seriously.

“It  was disappointing to have no representation there,” said Gay. “Because at least we would have liked to have someone there from Fortis to give answers during the question period.”

The public forum included guest speaker Jerry Flynn, a Kelowna man who opposes the AMI project, citing, “there are known harmful bio-effects of low-level radiation that is emitted by smart meter-based networks.”

Flynn is a former Royal Canadian Navy captain in the communications and electronics engineering branch, with experience in electronic warfare, radio warfare and signal intelligence.

“People were very interested in what Jerry had to say,” said Gay. “And they question why we have to pay for opting out of this when we already pay for a line.”

Gay is referring to FortisBC’s application to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), proposing a one-time $110 radio-off fee and a $22 charge per manual meter read which has to be approved before the program is implemented.

“During the meeting people were asking what we can do next because no one should have to pay a fee to not have something,” explained Gay. “For now, people need to be writing the BCUC with their concerns before a decision about opt out fees is made in December.”

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.

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 years with an expected completion date by the end of 2015.