Despite fierce opposition from a small relentless group of smart meter opponents, the Burbank City Council voted to install a new opt-out fee schedule at its meeting on Tuesday, March 20. During public comments, the opponents lambasted the smart meter technology as unhealthy, dangerous, and a privacy invader. As they have done many times in the past months, the council members listened, but were not moved by the emotional speeches enough to dump the new digital technology and go back to the old analog meters.
What the council did do is vote 3-to-2 to create a new fee schedule for those who opt-out of the smart meter program. Councilman Dr. David Gordon and Mayor Jess Talamantes voted “no” due to a 60 day limited period to apply to the program, which kicked in on the date of approval. Both Gordon and Talamantes wanted residents to be able to opt-out at anytime. The council did agree to reduce the proposed original one-time fee of $75 to $37.50 with a monthly rate of $10 for regular customers and $5 for Lifetime customers. Joanne Fletcher, assistant manager/customer service and marketing, told the council that out of thousands of users, less than 150 residents have contacted the BPW asking to opt-out of the smart meter program. The replacement meter reportedly will be the same digital meter without the communication device, which allows it to talk back to the utility.
Councilman Dave Golonski bottom lined the issue by reminding opponents that they were a bit late in bringing objections to the council: “..the plan was put in motion … I say maybe … six to eight years ago… when we started re-training our meter readers .. in order to do it as efficiently as possible… and effectively in the City of Burbank… and it has been supported by the council all along.” Also, he explained that even if you opt-out for your residence, or use some other kind of power such as solar, the smart meters are going to be all over the Media City. We have become a “… community of electronically read meters.”
Frequently, it has been said that local government affects the lives of residents more directly than state and federal government. This issue definitely proves that and suggests the actions of a city council and city officials should be watched closely and on a regular basis by those who care deeply about their quality of life.