PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners have approved a new opt-out policy after weeks of revisions and public hearings.
The commissioners approved it Tuesday night after an hour and a half discussion with members of staff, the citizen advisory board and Smart Meters Objectors Group (SMOG) about revising the specific wording of certain parts of the policy.
“I feel like it’s important we move ahead on this,” said Jeff Randall, commission chair.
“It feels like we’ve dealt with the substantive stuff and what we’re dealing with is wordsmithing that can be very awkward in a meeting.”
Some of the changes addressed included modifications of the purpose statement, the removal of the word “standard” when referring to the current meters that the PUD uses and other wording changes.
The opt-out policy allows PUD customers to choose to exchange the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) meter (which emits radio-frequencies to send data to a collection system) for a non-radio frequency (RF) transmitting meter in either an analog or digital form, according to the PUD’s new policy.
The non-RF meters would have an additional $5 fee attached to each billing cycle. The PUD said the fee is to help offset the cost of the exchange of the meters and to have it physically read by a meter reader.
Renters/non-property owners would have to get permission from the property owners to switch to the non-RF meters, the policy said.
Customers who are enrolled in the PUD’s low-income program will be exempt from the $5 monthly fee, the policy said.
Solar customers who need a bi-directional net metering digital meter have an additional one-time $75 fee associated with the opt-out, and are still responsible for paying the $5 fee each billing cycle, the policy said.
Customers who choose to opt out (and are not solar customers) will have the choice between a digital non-RF transmitting meter and an analog non-RF transmitting meter.
The opt-out program has taken almost a year to put together, with the citizen advisory board analyzing the policy, a public hearing conducted in October and numerous revisions made by staff and the commissioners throughout the process.
PUD staff members are working to put together the application form and organizing the procedure of changing out the meters.
Customers are expected to have the ability to apply to opt-out starting next year.
The draft (not the revised version that was adopted) policy and application can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-PUDoptout on pages 96 to 104.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].