Smart meter ordinance moves to second hearing

GRANTS PASS, Ore.– Josephine County commissioners are taking action against new smart meters with an ordinance that would crack down on the fees for people who opt-out.

Last Wednesday, the commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance with a date set for the second reading on the last week of October. However, the company installing the smart meters, Pacific Power, is requesting the county drop the proposed ordinance altogether.

According to Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung, the commissioners aren’t planning on backing down and it doesn’t seem like Pacific Power is either, leading things to potentially come to head later down the road.

“We had a really, really good… I guess a lively discussion last week,” he said.

What’s being proposed on the ordinance is a ban on utility companies from charging and collecting an opt-out fee and would fine the company if they did. However, Pacific Power says not only do they believe it’s illegal and conflicts with state law, the company doesn’t even set pricing on such rules and regulations. It’s all covered by the Public Utilities Commission of Oregon, a state agency.

“People will think county law prevails, that they may not have to pay anything to opt-out and they will fall behind on their bills,” said Scott Bolton, senior vice president of Pacific Power. “It will become an even more painful process than it needs to be.”

Both sides say they are trying to help those they serve whether that be the citizens of the county or the customers of a company. But there could be big implications either way and Pacific Power says that it could cause larger problems in the future.

“The problem here though is that the ordinance and the idea that the county can change our rates has confused a lot of our customers,” said Bolton.

DeYoung hopes that they all can meet at the table and hash things out but it may not be easy to derail.

“It doesn’t take effect until 90 days after adoption,” he said. “So there’s a pretty good window of opportunity in here for Pacific Power, Josephine County to sit down at a table while with input from the Public Utilities Commission.”

Josephine County commissioners want to stress something discussed during the first reading, people still need to pay their utility bill regardless of the ordinance. Pacific Power also recommends that people reach out to Oregon Citizens Utility Board at (503) 227-1984 or the Public Utilities Commission of Oregon at (503) 373-7394 to learn more about smart meters opt-out fees.

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