Westerville residents will have an extra month to weigh in on whether they want "smart meters."

Westerville residents will have an extra month to weigh in on whether they want "smart meters."

Citing public concerns about the proposal, Westerville City Council on July 20 postponed a third reading and vote on funding for advanced electronic meters, commonly known as smart meters, until Sept. 7 to give residents more time to learn about them.

The advanced electronic meters would replace standard utility meters and would allow remote monitoring of electricity use.

The meters would cost the city's electric division about $2.7-million, which would be financed over seven years, at a cost increase of less than 1 percent for consumers.

The expected total cost of $7-million for the program will 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 did approve a resolution July 20 aimed at quashing many of the concerns about privacy and potential cost increases associated with the new meters.

The resolution specifies the following:

Participation in demand response and time-of-use rate structure programs will be voluntary.

The meters will not be used to limit residents' utility consumption. Personal information and utility consumption information won't be published or distributed. Acceptance of federal grant money to help pay for the meters won't mean any other government entity will be allowed to interfere with management or operation of city utilities. The electric and water divisions will promptly address any concerns over meter malfunctions.
City council chairman Mike Heyeck thanked the residents who have given their input about the meters so far.

"We felt that it was good to make a statement as to what we're going to do with this initiative," he said.

Councilman Craig Treneff said he was in favor of the motion.

"After July 6 (at the public hearing), the first thing I did was sit down with my notes and try to summarize within my own thinking the major points," such as concerns about compulsory participation in energy conservation programs and privacy issues, Treneff said.

"I didn't think it was the intention of the electric division to do any of those things," he said. "If we have no intention of doing any of those things, let's put it in black and white, give it the force of law and make it clear that we have no intention of doing any of those things."

Additional public information sessions about the advanced meters will be held before the final reading and public hearing on funding ordinances, city officials said. Dates and times for the meetings have yet to be finalized.