It was at times the Jerry Springer show. At times it was a webinar, a game show and the nightly news. It was always entertaining; it never was boring. That was last night’s townhall meeting at the main library on the subject of smart meters.
How often do you get to see people so fired up, one had to be pulled off of City Councilman Myron Lowery? How often do you get to see the evening’s host, Council Woman Janis Fullilove, go out in the audience with a microphone to give them a chance to ask questions like it was the Tonight show? How often do you get to hear a Corinth, Mississippi, native come to the podium and give a rip roaring speech that left the audience laughing and cheering? Or see the president of a company skulk out of the meeting, tail between his legs, to avoid questions?
That – and more – was last night.
People began filing into the main meeting room at the library before the event at 6 p.m. Outside, union workers held signs of protest about smart meters while others handed out pamphlets with information about them. When the time for the townhall came, the room was full. Every seat was taken and the walls were lined with people standing.
Councilwoman Fullilove introduced Jerry Collins, president of MLGW. Along with him were several MLGW officials and a few employees were in the audience. The union was well represented by Bill Hawkins and Rick Thompson and citizenry by Republican and Tea Party member Yvonne Burton. All were to get time to speak, with a q & a to follow.
Collins introduced Eliza King. She then began a presentation that was sheets from a report projected on a screen. “Technology evolves,” said Ms. King, “and we are keeping pace with technology.” She then began to talk of the “journey to smart meters” and how the company looks for full implementation by 2020.
At that point, Council member Joe Brown interrupted her. “I didn’t vote for this. This is not what you want and not what you need. This is not going to benefit you,” he said emphatically.
Someone then asked about an opt out choice. King said there was one. Asked about a fee for those who want to opt out, King said “there is no fee for that. But, you will be charged for a special meter reader fee. We have to pass on that cost.”
To that vocal sleight of hand the audience responded negatively. King continued, referring to the list on the screen of dangers to meter readers, another reason for smart meters. They included dog bites, slips and falls, insect bites and miscellaneous; things home owners who aren’t meter men encounter daily. King then talked about the peak usage times. In the summer they go from noon til 8 p.m. and in the winter 4 a.m. to 10 a.m.
At this point, Collins apparently had left the building. King soldiered on by herself.
Ms. Fullilove interrupted and recounted her experience. She had a smart meter installed, disliked it and had it removed. “I was washing clothes at 2 a.m.,” she said. “The cost went way up from the month before. The in home display never worked. When they put back the old one, costs went down. Explain that to me.”
King said she did not believe Fullilove was signed up for the time of use rates. “So why would I sign up for one if I didn’t get the benefits,” the Council woman asked.
“I’ll have to check all my records,” King responded. The crowd groaned in disbelief.
Next: The union has its say.
Channel 5 covered the event and you can watch it here: