Controversial Smart Meter program moves ahead

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SUMMERSIDE - The second phase of the city's controversial Smart Meter project passed by the narrowest of margins Tuesday night – a vote of five to four.

Councillors Tina Mundy, Jeff Sullivan, Cory Thomas and Frank Costa were not convinced the city should move forward on the project. They raised the issue once again of seeking partnerships with the private sector to help defray the cost to taxpayers and keep the city from encroaching into private sector business.

Deputy mayor Bruce MacDougall and councillors Peter Holman, Jim Steele and Ron Dowling voted in favour of moving ahead. That set the stage for Mayor Basil Stewart to cast the deciding vote, approving Phase Two of the project.

The vote approved awarding bids amounting to just over $650,000.

Stewart said the city needs this project.

“We have to move ahead,” he said. “We’re living in a changing world and there’s no question, to have that facility (electric utility), this is an opportunity to expand it. This, in my opinion, is very important. I honestly believe in the project.”

Dissenting councillors, while supporting the idea of the Smart Meter Program, argued that the project could move ahead with a private sector partnership; freeing up valuable money for other issues within the city.

“I still have doubts,” Mundy said. “I’m still not 100 per cent sold on it. At the end of last year, our net debt was $89 million. At some point we have to take a look and say, okay, we have to continue to move forward but at what cost? Right now, my calls from my residents are about ditches, roads that are in bad shape, a downtown that is dying. Those are the calls that I get. They saying to me, 'why do you have to continue to spend money?'”

Mundy said the city has a lot of assets but noted substantial economic development within the city is lagging.

“So, I guess the logic of building a fibre network will make it all come together - I just don’t agree with that," she said. “I put the challenge out to the team to find a way that we can fill the ditches within the next two or three years, find a way to take care of our downtown." Sullivan said he understands the thinking behind the project but didn‘t accept the projected costs.  It will cost $7.9 million to provide fibre optics to all the homes in Summerside. The project figures show that this would be funded over a 25-year period at an interest rate of 2.5 per cent. Sullivan said the interest rate on a project of that length will exceed 2.5 per cent. And end up costing more than what is being projected.

He too suggested the city try to arrange a partnership with a private company and if it doesn’t work out, revisit the project.

“I have voiced concerns about this project from the start,” said Thomas. “I’ve studied it and reviewed it 100 times and I’m still not satisfied with the business case. I don’t feel that all avenues have been explored and I do believe an opportunity still exists with the private sector to expand, to work to develop this project.”

Coun. Dowling said from a community development perspective the Smart Meter Program is a component on building onto to the electric utility concept.

He said it is well known how much value the city has in owning its own utility.

Dowling said he is fully in favour of partnering with the private sector when the opportunity arises and this particular issue falls in line when there are private providers available.

But he said there hasn’t been any firm figures given by either Eastlink or Bell Aliant to the project.

“In the interest of moving this project forward I am support the resolution.”

Costa said he believes the city is strapped with its investments in infrastructure and a stronger effort is needed to look at a private sector partnership. 

Steele said he was in favour of moving ahead with this phase of the project but when it comes for funding in the next phase that the effort continue to look for private sector involvement. mcarson@journalpioneer.com

 

Organizations: Bell Aliant

Geographic location: SUMMERSIDE

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Recent comments

  • Frustrated
    December 05, 2012 - 12:29

    This is ridiculous! My eyes are open to the corruption and bullying going on in our city has anyone else noticed? What's the real reason they want to do this fibre? Sounds like somebody's pet project they are forcing down everyones throats. No chance in hell this is feasible and would take decades to pay off. Stick to the basics of collect and dispurse taxes and keeping the city clean and safe.

  • Billy
    December 05, 2012 - 10:46

    To Tidy Bay, there a lot of other things we could also promote but I don't think it will bring in a rush of people that would make up for the exodus,such as the highest residential taxes in the land with little to show for it, a deficit of $90 million and growing, wind turbines that produce electricity that by passes the residents and I could go on, but why???

  • Unbelievable Upper Management
    December 05, 2012 - 09:48

    Mayor Stewarts comments" I honestly believe in this", same mind set he had with the Michael Jackson Concert and his prolonged percesution of the past Deputy Chief of Police, he failed miserably with both of these endevours and will fail yet again with this Small City Big Ideas concept. Things of this magnitude should always be decided at public meetings, we are talking millions here folks. Less than two years to go before these five clowns are voted out. Congratulations to Councilors Costa, Mundy, Thomas and Sullivan, all the electorate knows where the brain power is. Holman and Steele are a big disappointment and the next election will oust them out along with the Old Boys Club( Basil, Bruce and Ron) Good riddens.

  • i'mjustsayin
    December 05, 2012 - 09:42

    Citizens should take note of who voted in favour of this and who stood their ground against Boss Hogg. The track record of this Mayors spending of public funds is enough to make anyone question this project. Basil, you are not a concert promoter and you are certainly not an expert in the field of IT infrastructure. Listen to the people for once please...

  • I dont want a smart meter
    December 05, 2012 - 09:08

    Why do we have no choice on this? This should be up to the citizens. "People are exposed to cell phone microwaves primarily in the head and neck, and only when they use their device. With smart meters, the entire body is exposed to the microwaves, which increases the risk of overexposure to many organs." http://www.globalresearch.ca/smart-meter-dangers-the-health-hazards-of-wireless-electromagnetic-radiation-exposure/31891

  • Danger
    December 05, 2012 - 09:02

    I'd advise against these... http://www.globalresearch.ca/smart-meter-dangers-the-health-hazards-of-wireless-electromagnetic-radiation-exposure/31891

  • Stephen Gaudet
    December 05, 2012 - 07:40

    I bet you that 95% of the town have no idea what this project is...but soon will know when their taxes and fees increase. This is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something that we already have. How many lines of fibre do we need running on our streets? Another MJ concert blunder in the works here folks.

  • Upset Taxpayers
    December 05, 2012 - 05:47

    No surpises here Mayor Stewart, everyone knows how you set this up to make it a tie. Coun Holman and Steele turned coat since being elected, congratulations to Tina, Frank, Cory and Jeff, you Councilors are living up to your oath of office and the transparency and accountability you promised. Basil and Bruce and Dowling, now Holman and Steele are a pathatic team and all should be run out of the City. Like I said this is our Mayor at his best, constant mistruths and smoky mirrors, hopefully in LESS than two years he and his other gronnies will be run out of office.

  • T De Baie
    December 05, 2012 - 04:39

    What are you thinking when you suggest you need meters. This fall I visited every large city in this country and what a joy it was to find a city with no parking meters. Your city is unique. Please don't take that away from "THE ISLAND". Promote Summerside as a "CITY WITH NO PARKING METERS". People won't believe it and they will come and see it for themselves.

    • duh
      December 05, 2012 - 10:59

      Who said anything about parking meters? If I understand correctly, they are talking about electricity meters for your homes!

    • DUH DUH
      December 05, 2012 - 11:59

      I thought it was for laugh meters at City Hall.