City “Made Whole” in Terminating Smart Meter Contract
City officials are quick to express appreciation to Mueller’s approach in resolving the issues regarding the city’s Advance Metering Infrastructure Project. “We are very pleased with the resolution of the issues surrounding settlement talks. We will not be moving forward with the Advanced Metering Infrastructure Project” said city manager; Dan McKeen. “This settlement agreement allows us the ability to move forward replacing many of the outdated, inaccurate water and electric meters” continued McKeen. Residents having analog meters attaining 99% accuracy may request to keep them in place.
Customers Choose Preferred Meter
Rate payers now have the option to select a digital meter if they prefer. Those who have the smart meters already installed will have it changed out for a non-radio frequency digital “dumb” meter. The difference is, these digital meters do not have a radio transmitter attached. The radio transmitter sends meter readings to a central location and removes the necessity for manual meter reading. It is the radio transmitter and its electro- magnetic pulsing that causes discomfort for those sensitive to the electro-magnetic fields inherent in the design of smart meters. The digital meter readout is much like a clock face. Anyone can read their digital meter and gauge their consumption. The new digital meters have no radio frequency transmitter. All installed smart meters with transmitters will be removed and replaced with digital meters without transmitters. The city will work with those residents who prefer an analog meter.
Lawsuit Avoided-Money Saved
The city, under the leadership of city attorney; Bill Bloor put together a legal team including attorneys whose specialty is municipal contracting issues. After a series of meetings with Mueller’s legal team the issues were ironed out to everyone’s satisfaction. “This avoids costly lawsuits which could drag on for years and hobble the city’s efforts to replace meters not functioning correctly” said Bloor.
City Receives Full Value For Money Spent
To date the city has paid approximately $1.7 million to Mueller. When the contract got bogged down the city contracted with West Monroe Partners to examine the issues and suggest corrective measures.
The settlement agreement covers these expenditures too. The city will get back full value for the smart meters already installed and those in stock in city warehouses.
Cash and Credits For Future Purchases
Part of the settlement includes the city being issued a credit for materials returned. This credit can be spent for non-radio equipped electric meters as well as water meters which the city will change out over the next few years as older inaccurate meters are identified and removed.
Transmitters in Water Meters Removed Too
Some of the water meters already installed have the radio transmitters. This module will be removed without the cost of changing out the entire water meter. The radio transmitters removed from water meters will be returned and a credit of approximately $70 each will accrue to the city. City staff will remove the module. All transmitter equipped water meters now in the city’s possession and not installed will be returned for cash.
Un-installed Smart Meters Returned
All electric smart meters in the city’s possession and not installed will be shipped back to Mueller’s for full refund. The city has sufficient digital meters in-stock to replace those requested by rate payers who do not want the radio frequency style smart meters. According to Craig Fulton; Public Works Director “In addition to the meters that were not installed, all currently installed smart meters will be removed and returned to Mueller for a refund, and replaced with meters without radios. This will take some time.” According to city manager; Dan McKeen, “It is always better to resolve these issues without litigation. Going to court could take two to three years and cost up to $500,000 in legal fees. Even then the outcome would be determined by others. With this agreement we remain in control of the outcome.”
Remaining Funds to Offset Future Rate Increases
The city’s initial approval for the program amounts to $4.5 million dollars spread over the three departments including electric, water and waste water. The money left over in the program will be split between these city departments to reduce the amount of scheduled rate increases.
Edna Willadsen; a smart meter opponent from the beginning says, “Good job city council and all the employees who took part in turning around the smart meter program. I no longer need Tums and Advil to attend city council meetings.”
Judi Hangartner; originator of the “Smart Meter Awareness” group said, “I would like to thank the City staff and the Council members for listening to our great concerns regarding the radio frequency meters. This great news will help other cities look at what Port Angeles accomplished. Happy medium for both sides.”