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Naperville councilman draws criticism for alternative smart meter proposal

By: Justin Kmitch |

A Naperville City Council member has proposed a plan he believes can foster a compromise between the city and foes of efforts to install more than 57,000 smart meters in the community.

Fellow council members, however, lined up Thursday to take a swing at Doug Krause’s plan, calling it political grandstanding and two years too late.

Krause distributed his proposal to council members late Tuesday. It includes allowing the roughly 200 residents who have attempted to halt installation of a wireless smart meter at their home to have their original meter put back in place, with some conditions.

Krause said the residents would apply for the program and, if accepted, pay a one-time fee for reinstalling the analog meter. Residents also would be responsible for providing the city with a monthly reading of the meter at least 10 days before the billing cycle ends. The city would check the meters twice a year to confirm the accuracy.

“It’s a great compromise and everyone gives a little so we meet in the middle,” said Krause, who is one of 11 candidates for four city council seats in April. “I’m hoping my fellow council members will read through the plan and be willing to put at least two hands in the air so we can discuss it at the council level.”

The plan is unlikely to see the light of day.

“I did the most responsible thing I could do with that plan: I recycled it,” Councilman Steve Chirico said. “I have no idea where that plan came from other than to suggest we’re entering silly (election) season.”

Councilman Grant Wehrli called the move “vintage Krause.”

“I looked at it and quickly disregarded it because it’s nothing but another chapter in the Doug Krause political maneuver book. He placates the loudest group he can and he’s got a history of doing it,” he said. “I don’t know if he’ll get any support, but if he does, it won’t be from me.”

City Manager Doug Krieger and Assistant Manager of Public Utilities Mark Curran, who oversees the electric department, did not return calls Thursday to confirm whether Krause’s plan is even possible now that the city is 99.7 percent complete with the installation of wireless smart meters. Some council members even said it is nearly impossible to return to analog meters at this point.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong didn’t even read Krause’s plan but said analog is no longer compatible with the city’s new wireless digital system.

Wehrli agreed, saying analog meters have “gone the way of the old rotary telephone.”

Councilman Robert Fieseler, who has overseen the city’s move to the smart grid initiative, said he appreciates Krause presenting a plan, rather than just complaining. But, he said, it’s too little too late.

“This was a great plan two and a half years ago when we could have negotiated such a program with the U.S. Department of Energy,” Fieseler said. “His proposal appears that he would be offering customers the ability to remove themselves from the very system we are constructing, which relies on the collection of time-interval data. Self-reporting of data is going to leave huge gaps in the system.”

Tom Glass, a board member of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, which has opposed the installation of smart meters due to a variety of safety and security concerns, said Krause’s proposal has not made its way to the organization yet. But he wishes it would.

Had the same proposal come at least a year earlier, he said, “a lot of money could have been saved in attorneys fees” for the federal lawsuit the group has against the city.

“Whether it was for political reasons or not, I commend Doug Krause for attempting to do something rational and find a common ground,” Glass said. “What he is suggesting is all any of us have ever asked for and it preserves our property rights.”

The city says the new smart meters ultimately will save residents money.

The city council next meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.