June 13, 2012
To the editor,
In your front page story in yesterday’s paper you quoted the Mayor as saying the City has taken no official position in favor of the now controversial radio read water meters. But the reason why the City chose to upgrade to these meters without informing the public remains unclear. City officials including the Mayor have been telling citizens as recently as April 29, 2012 that these meters “are only emitting a signal when the meter reading person sends a signal to read the meter. When the signal is sent, it “wakes up” the meter and sends back a reading in a matter of seconds. When the information is received, the meter goes “back to sleep”, so the meter is actively emitting a signal for less than one minute per month.”
Now that is information has been found to be incorrect, and the City acknowledges the meters pulse RF radiation every 14 seconds, 24 hours a day. So the argument in support of the meters is now of the alleged “cost savings” of the meters. But at the public hearing on Monday it was said the new meters cost $240 each compared to under $100 for the “Touchpad” version offered in the opt out and currently installed on many homes. So thats at least $140 extra expense for the radio read meters. If these are installed on 4,000 Fairfield homes that’s an extra expense to the taxpayer of at least $560,000. And we also heard that no meter readers jobs will be cut. So where is the savings?
I heard this morning from one citizen who recently spoke to her water meter reader. He said he likes his job walking door to door. And he likes the exercise and fresh air… and he’s worried about losing his job because of this new technology. Another claim we’ve heard is that meter readers sometimes encounter problems such as dogs and other dangers about approaching some houses. Yet the UPS deliveryman here told me he has a simple solution… dog biscuits! One biscuit per dog and he finds the dogs eager to greet him just hearing the sound of the UPS truck. And workers compensation claims? Have there been ANY claims in the last 20 years of meter readers who have had injuries while reading meters?
Really I am at a loss to understand how this $560,000 extra taxpayer expense is justified. I think the City should acknowledge the Touchpad meter is SAVING taxpayers money, and should be offered at no cost. In Vermont all opt out fees to avoid radio read meters are now banned by law. The City of St Paul MN offers the Touchpad as an opt out for only $6 a month and no charge to install. That is at least a much better deal than Fairfield is presently proposing.
Brian Horsfield, PhD.