"Late in the game,” as Mount Shasta Mayor Kathy Morter noted, the City Council voted 3 to 1 last Thursday to ask the state’s Public Utilities Commission to suspend installation of smart meters in the city.

"Late in the game,” as Mount Shasta Mayor Kathy Morter noted, the City Council voted 3 to 1 last Thursday to ask the state’s Public Utilities Commission to suspend installation of smart meters in the city.

Because the smart meter rollout is nearing completion in Mount Shasta, it’s unclear whether the resolution will have much practical impact.

But it no doubt pleased one member of Thursday’s audience, James Corcoran, who told council before the vote, “At least you will have done something to oppose this outrage.”

The City Council resolution asks the commission to wait until it’s clear what the costs will be for those who decide not to have smart meters installed at their home or business. Morter and council members Tim Stearns and John Stackfleth voted for the moratorium. Council member Barbara Wagner cast the sole “no” vote. Council member Paul Engstrom wasn’t present at the meeting.

The new meters emit radio frequencies that enable utility companies to monitor electricity use from a remote location. They replace older, “analog” meters that must be read manually at each residence or business.

City Manager Bruce Pope said he’d been told by the utility company that more than 200 of its customers in Mount Shasta had asked not to have smart meters installed, constituting about eight percent of all households in the city. Pacific Power says that, overall, less than one percent of its customers in Oregon and California have opted out of the smart meter program.

Completion of the smart meter roll out is projected to be at the end of the month, according to Pacific Power.

About 60 vocal citizens showed up for Thursday’s special, single-topic meeting. Many of them voiced health and safety concerns associated with the new meters, including the possibility of illnesses from cancer to chronic headaches caused by radiation emitted from the meters, and the potential of fires caused by power surges overheating the meters.

But much of the testimony from both Council members and citizens focused on what some described as a “horrific” and “horrendous” smart meter rollout program.

Stearns, who pushed for the moratorium, said despite promises from Pacific Power that there’d be advance notice of smart meter installation, he came home one day to find one installed at this home without prior notice.

Others at the meeting said they had called Pacific Power to opt out of smart meters, only to find an installer on their property who said he had no record they’d opted out. The installers, who work for Aclara, the company that makes the meters, were described by audience speakers as having attitudes that ranged from rude to courteous. Some of the speakers objected to what they called “bullying” tactics by the power company and its installers.

Both Pacific Power and Aclara have acknowledged that there have been problems with the smart meter installation program and say they’re working to fix them. Many individual complaints from customers stem from an apparent failure by Pacific Power to transmit customer opt out requests to the installers in a timely fashion.

In a statement made after the Council meeting, Pacific Power representative Cory Estlund said, “Recently, we received an influx of opt-out requests from the Mount Shasta area. In response, we have dedicated more resources to processing daily opt-out requests so the installers have the most recent list at the beginning of the day. This should greatly reduce the likelihood of any delays between customers’ requests and the installers’ schedule. If we receive a same-day request, it may not be possible to accommodate the opt-out that day. Also, if a customer writes a letter to opt out, they may experience a delay as the correspondence is processed.”

Some Pacific Power customers who’ve had smart meters installed over their objections are asking if they’ll be charged for the reinstallation of analog meters. According to Estlund, the power company will install “non-communicating” digital meters that don't send out radio waves and must be read manually for customers who didn't want smart meters installed, and there will be no charge to the customer for installing them. The company says it doesn’t have analog meters available for re-installation.

Morter said at the meeting that she received “sincere” assurances from Pacific Power spokesperson Monte Mendenhall that the utility’s staff would look into every customer complaint regarding smart meter installation.

There were no representatives from the power company at the meeting.