Local News

Smart meter ban fails in Fountain

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - A ballot measure to uninstall smart meters was shot down, but the opponents and proponents of the new technology said Wednesday the debate isn't over.

A grassroots group against smart meters got a measure on Tuesday's ballot in Fountain aimed at banning smart meters. The group, Fountain Valley Citizens Against Smart Meters, wanted to stop Fountain Utilities from replacing meters it uses to track customers' utility consumption with smart meters.

On Tuesday, ballot measure 2D failed, only getting 40 percent of the vote in Fountain.  The ballot measure wanted to change the city's charter which would in turn require smart meters to be removed.

Fountain Utilities has installed 16,000 smart meters as part of a program funded by a federal grant. Fountain Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell said Fountain Utilities would have lost $5 million if measure 2D passed.  It would have had to repay a $2 million federal grant and an additional $3 million to reinstall the old meters.

Ken Lippincott is a leader in Fountain Valley Citizens for Smart Meter Awareness. The group has spent two years raising awareness about smart meters. The group passed out 27,000 fliers to rally support against the technology. The election results were disappointing.

"I would have to say I was sad," said Lippincott about watching the votes come in. "Two years investment, two years of letting things go. We did that by choice, of course, believing the issue is that important."

Lippincott said smart meters jeopardize your security.

"If you hack into a smart meter you can tell by the encryption the type of appliances that are being used. If it isn't being used, a lot perhaps, the person isn't home," he said.

Fountain Utilities said its developed a cyber security system to protect its customers.

Lippincott also said radio frequencies in smart meters interfer with implants like pace markers. Fountain Utilities said it worked with Medtronic to make sure the technology was safe for people's health.  

"We have opposition in our community," said Mitchell.  "We have people that we have to continue to work with."

Mitchell said smart meters have a lot of benefits.

"Look at our cellphone 10 years ago compared to the smartphone," said Mitchell.   "Some of those features (of the smart meter) include a web portal so that customers can access their consumption and cost information related to their utility usage more frequently then when they get their bill because in the past you've gotten your bill after you consumed the electricity, you had no idea how much. This allows customers to look at that on a daily basis."

Mitchell said he was relieved ballot measure 2D failed. However, he said with 40 percent of voters approving the measure, there is still work to be done.

"We have to develop a formal opt-out program for those who just don't want one of the meters," said Mitchell.

Though Mitchell and Lippincott disagree about the technology, both agree on one thing: the debate about smart meters isn't over.

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