Opposition outshouts town officials at rowdy Glasco meeting
The town hoped an information meeting on the new water meters would put the rumors to rest. That hope ended when company representative Chris Goodrich walked out.
“This is a lynch mob,” he said. “I’m leaving.”
But by that time—nearly two hours in—it was clear the presentation wasn’t changing many minds. From the first minutes, as residents jeered Goodrich’s PowerPoint slideshow, the atmosphere at the Glasco Fire Department was raucous and confrontational. Like an embarrassed teacher trying to calm a rowdy class, Supervisor Kelly Myers repeatedly stepped forward to ask the 50 or 60 residents to let Goodrich finish without interrupting. It didn’t work. The people were frustrated, not all of them for the same reasons. There were concerns about radiofrequency [RF] radiation, rumors of workers demanding $75 if homeowners refused installation, the overall price tag of over $800,000 to replace meters that weren’t broken, and the feeling the town didn’t publicize the February public hearing when it made the decision and now it was too late for the taxpayers to have a say.
Goodrich is from EJ Prescott, which contracted with the town to provide the meters. The make is Sensus, the model is iPERL. The meter is more sensitive than the old mechanical models and capable of transmitting usage data remotely to a vehicle passing by, which speeds up the time it takes to read meters, but Goodrich said the term “smart meter” usually refers to electrical meters that provide almost constant usage data to the utility. Still, there is no official definition, so the water meters could be considered “smart meters” because of their ability to be read remotely, though that technology is nearly two decades old.
Prescott said the RF radiation produced by a typical cell phone conversation is several thousand times greater than that produced by one of the company’s meters. He said studies haven’t demonstrated a clear link between RF radiation and cancer.
But opponents, armed with pages of research printed out from the Internet, said precisely the opposite, and urged attendees to do their own research.
Prior to the meeting, those in opposition to the new meters had hung signs that read “SMART METER FREE ZONE.” Barclay Heights resident Donna Greco, author of the letter to the editor of this newspaper that sparked much of the interest in the issue, sat at a table near the entrance collecting signatures for a petition against the new water meters.
After Goodrich concluded his presentation, the question and answer session quickly devolved into a public debate. When called upon to ask a question, several individuals, including some Woodstock residents, instead strode up to the front of the room and addressed the audience from prepared notes.
One Woodstock resident shared her own story about being exposed to an electrical smart meter and feeling immobilized by its effects.
In response to concern that the water meters emit signals continuously, board members Fred Costello and Jimmy Bruno said they’d gone into a home with a new water meter with an RF-reading device, and witnessed that no signal was being transmitted until provoked by a signal sent by a truck outside. The signal lasted for four seconds.
Goodrich, initially mild-mannered, seemed taken aback by the combative atmosphere. When one resident asked, “How many meters have caught on fire?” he replied: “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”