Westerville City Council will vote on whether to fund an overhaul of the city's electric metering system when members return from summer break Sept. 7.

Westerville City Council will vote on whether to fund an overhaul of the city's electric metering system when members return from summer break Sept. 7.

Approval would allow the city's electrical division to move forward with implementing advanced metering infrastructure, replacing current electric meters throughout the city with so-called digital "smart meters."

If council gives its approval, the first meters would be installed before the end of this year, electric division manager Andrew Boatright said. Under a $4.3-million federal grant awarded to the city, Westerville would have until April 2012 to install the meters citywide.

"It looks as though that will be possible," Boatright said. "We hope to have the first smart meter out there before the holidays. Most of them will take place after the start of the new year."

Proponents say the meters would allow the city to read customers' meters digitally, notify the city of outages and help customers monitor their electric usage. They would cost a total of $10.7-million.

That would be offset by a $4.3-million federal grant, a $1.15-million cost-share for software with a contracted company and $2.5-million already being spent by the city on its fiber optics system.

Council's vote will determine whether Westerville will fund the additional $2.7-million, Boatright said. A vote also will be taken Sept. 7 to determine whether the city will spend an additional $2.5-million to install digital meters for the water division as well.

The electric division sought council's approval for the new digital metering system this spring, but voting was delayed to allow the city to further educate the public on the system and to garner more feedback from residents.

At a standing-room-only public hearing in July, many residents spoke out against the digital meters, expressing concerns that the program would give the city too much control over individual electric consumption, that the city was rushing to accept the federal grant and that the new system would be too costly.

A handful of residents at that meeting did speak in favor of the new system.

Over the summer, Westerville spokeswoman Christa Dickey said the city engaged in a large push to educate residents on the proposed electrical system.

She said the city set up booths at several public events, such as Fourth Friday celebrations, Wessie Fest and the fire division's Sound the Siren Fire Expo and Muster.

The city also has held four public open houses on the topic, sent out letters and postcards to residents, met with local groups, printed an article in the most recent edition of Westerville Magazine, posted information on its Web site and answered e-mails and phone calls from residents, Dickey said.

"It's been a matter of making sure that we were taking the course to make sure our residents had the awareness, had the ability to get their questions answered," she said. "Any topic with technology is going to be a complicated topic."

In the meantime, Boatright said the electrical division has been working on how to best implement an advanced metering system.

Division representatives have met with AEP to discuss its digital metering program, which has installed meters in central Ohio, and traveled to Detroit to see how that city has been phasing in the meters.

Should council approve the legislation Sept. 7, the electrical division will begin working with vendors to establish parameters for the system, Boatright said.

"That will take some time to get accomplished, but that process would start soon after the Sept. 7 meeting, should that be approved," he said.

The Sept. 7 meeting will start at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 21 S. State St.