VOL. 130 | NO. 235 | Thursday, December 3, 2015
Memphis City Council Runs Smart Meter Gauntlet
By Bill Dries
The Memphis City Council may have six lame ducks on it. But in its last month together, the group of 13 isn’t coasting to the end of its term.
The council approved Tuesday, Dec. 1, a $240 million, five-year contract between Memphis Light Gas and Water Division and Elster Solutions LLC to outfit most of the city with smart meters.
Utility president Jerry Collins said the meters will save MLGW $40 million a year once the system is fully implemented and allow customers to take advantage of time-of-use rates as well as monitor their energy usage for lower bills.
“They are a major component in our smart grid system,” he said.
Most council members agreed but were dissatisfied with the low level of minority and local companies doing the work.
The large contract signals an end to several years of debate, which featured conspiracy theories and numerous delays that council members have largely watched play out at City Hall among a small group of citizens opposed to the meters.
Council member Janis Fullilove kept the contract bottled up in committee during her time as MLGW committee chairman.
Fullilove also believes the meters are unsafe. And she argued the meters will be paid for by future rate hikes and won’t mean lower bills for consumers – all points Collins repeatedly has said are not true.
Donna Bohannon was among citizens attending council sessions over the last two years on the issue who contend the meters are likely to catch fire. She noted Tuesday that some council members have children who attend Presbyterian Day School.
“Are you going to put these smart meters on PDS and pray (the kids) get out (when the meters catch on fire)?” Bohannon asked the council. “You are voting for meter fires. You are voting for double and triple the bills. We’re all going to be drinking the same water.”
Bohannon and several other opponents also are opposed to fluoride in the city’s drinking water.
Sukara Yahweh touched on that topic too as he warned the smart meters are another indication the U.S. is joining the “North American union.”
“Just like the doggone fluoride – all of that comes from China,” he said. “It looks like we are looking at something called cable-splicing coming into existence. … Help me and help us save the fetuses.”
But other citizens who have been part of the early rollout of 60,000 smart meters said their utility bills have gone down as they use the technology to watch their usage more closely.
“I’m happy with my smart meter,” said Mike Moffatt of Harbortown. “I can go on my computer and get up-to-the-minute information such as my usage, my cost of utilities as opposed to the same period last year.”
Corey Hardquist of Lakeland said the meters are progress.
“I don’t believe my house is going to catch on fire,” he said. “This seems pretty simple to me.”
Burton Bridges of Midtown called it “inevitable.”
“One should be more afraid of an iPhone than a smart meter,” he told the council.