Pacific Power faces tough crowd at Talent's smart meter meeting

Smart meters are scheduled to be installed in Jackson County in June. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

Crowds inside Talent's Town Hall building spilled into the courtyard Wednesday evening as Pacific Power fielded residents' concerns regarding smart meters that are scheduled to be installed in southern Oregon this year.

Attendants who were not Talent residents were asked to give up their seats as the building quickly exceeded it s 120 person capacity. People has traveled all the way from Sams Valley and Klamath Falls to attend.

Talent's Interim City Manager said they decided to facilitate the meeting after city council received multiple complaints surrounding smart meters over the last two months. The city asked William Bathgate, an electric engineer for more than 40 years, to video conference into the meeting and speak on behalf of concerned residents.

The main concerns surrounding the smart meters are health related, as some residents believe they give off dangerous amounts of radiation.

"The harm is primarily in the area of the nervous system," said Billgate, who organized a 20 minuted presentation for the meeting. "These frequencies, they send pulses that will interrupt your nerve transmissions."

According to Billgate, people who are sensitive to this kind of exposure can experience a number of symptoms, including headaches, nose bleeds, sleeplessness, nausea and skin irritation.

Customers also expressed worry with the meters being a possible fire hazard, and that jobs could be lost due to new technology.

Pacific Power provides a response to these concerns on their Frequently Asked Questions page, stating that standing in front of the meter for a year would expose customers to the same amount of radiation as a 15-minute phone call.

Bathgate said that's not the case, "There is no logical way to make the comparison that a smart meter is less than a smart phone. There is no basis and fact for any of this kind of calculation."

Any resident who wishes to opt out of the program can do so, but it comes at a cost. Keeping your old meter incurs a one-time fee of $137, plus another $36 a month.

Talent resident Francesca Fericano said she opted out of the program, but she hopes the fee is lowered before new meters hit Jackson County. Otherwise, she said many customers will be forced into using the new system.

"Thirty-seven dollars a month? I mean to some people if you think about it, that's going to be half their bill," she said. "And why would you want 50 percent of your bill every month added on?"

Jackson County is scheduled to have smart meters installed starting June 25th, while Josephine County is scheduled for this fall. Installations in Klamath Falls have already begun.

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