Bath council urges CMP to delay 'smart' meters

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BATH — The City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday that urges Central Maine Power Co. to refrain from installing wireless “smart” electric meters within the city for up to 180 days.

The resolution came a day after the Maine Public Utilities Commission rejected a complaint seeking reconsideration of the commission’s approval last year of the installation of the advanced metering infrastructure, which is intended to replace existing electric meters. Six other complaints are pending.

The resolution calls for Bath residents to have an opportunity during the 180-day period to understand concerns about the meters, including potential impacts on medical devices, cybersecurity risks and purported fire hazards.

The council urged CMP to give residents advance notice of the company’s intent to install meters, and to provide residents sufficient information about their ability to opt out of the installation and how to do so.

The council also urged the PUC to reopen discussion about installation of the devices. It also asked Bath residents to become involved in the issue and express their opinions to the PUC.

Councilor David Sinclair said he put the item on the agenda after being contacted by residents.

“It became quite clear to me that we as a council need to do something to help protect the citizens of Bath from behavior by CMP that, with respect to the installation of these meters, has been characterized by the public advocate’s office … as being coercive and being disrespectful of property owners’ rights,” Sinclair said.

He said the Office of the Public Advocate found recently that while there has been a well-publicized opt-out option, “the actual installers of the meters have been acting in a coercive fashion with respect not just to those who haven’t decided yet to opt out, but also with respect to those who have opted out.”

He mentioned “instances where those installers would go back multiple times and attempt to do the installation, sometimes waiting until the property owner was not at home.”

Councilor Andrew Winglass said a subcontractor, not CMP itself, is installing the meters.

Sinclair said he wants Bath residents to be able to voice their concerns about the devices, and for them to get straight answers from CMP about those issues in an open forum.

He noted that the resolution is not legally enforceable, and that CMP could still install the devices.

“Passing a resolution will make a statement, but it will do no more than that,” Winglass said. “The best place … if you have a concern would be to contact your state representative, your state senators, because this is a fight that would occur at a state level and a federal level. It’s not going to be able to be solved at a local level, unfortunately.”

The council also scheduled a workshop for Wednesday, April 13, on political signs and proposed signs that advertise generic goods and services downtown. The latter signs would not advertise a particular business, and they would be located on city property and approved by city officials.

The workshop will take place at City Hall at 6 p.m.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.