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Nanaimo co-housing residents block smart-meter installation

Susana Michaelis, a resident at Pacific Gardens Co-housing Community, stands in front of power meters covered with letters from residents refusing installation of new smart meters in the community’s electrical room. Community members turned back technicians from Corix, the subcontractor carrying out B.C. Hydro’s smart meter installations, Monday morning. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Susana Michaelis, a resident at Pacific Gardens Co-housing Community, stands in front of power meters covered with letters from residents refusing installation of new smart meters in the community’s electrical room. Community members turned back technicians from Corix, the subcontractor carrying out B.C. Hydro’s smart meter installations, Monday morning.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Residents of Pacific Gardens Co-housing Community blocked Corix Utilities technicians from entering the building when they came to install smart meters this week.

Residents of the complex on Seventh Street in south Nanaimo said they turned installers away twice when they arrived with smart meters and work orders Monday morning.

The first meeting was cordial and the installer was polite and understanding, residents said, but on the second visit, an exchange between an installer and the residents heated up when they refused to let him pass.

"There were three of us ladies and one gentleman standing here trying to have a conversation with him," said Sharon Fulton. "He realized we weren't going to let him pass, so he got aggressive and he threatened to call the police. We said, 'OK, go ahead,' and he got a bit huffy and wanted to leave."

Owners of all 26 units in the complex sent letters to B.C. Hydro stating they will not allow the existing digital meters to be swapped for the new smart meters. Copies of letters signed by each unit owner are taped to the existing meters in the building's electrical room and notices are posted on doors of the main entrance.

Pacific Gardens resident Susana Michaelis said a Corix field supervisor told her installers would not replace the meters that residents had placed refusal notices on.

Residents of WindSong Co-housing Community, a 34-unit co-housing complex in Langley, B.C., also turned back Corix technicians in December.

Pacific Gardens residents said they are concerned about possible health issues claimed to be associated with smart meters, but also do not want to feel bullied into accepting something they do not want.

The co-housing community won a reprieve for the time being, but Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman, said the smart meters will eventually be installed.

"We're putting those people aside for now and we'll go back and talk to them at a later date," Olynyk said. "We need to find out what their concerns are and address their concerns."

Olynyk said of the 58,000 meters that need to be swapped in Nanaimo, 45,000 are already completed.

Of the 1.8 million smart meters being installed across B.C., more than 615,000 have been installed and B.C. Hydro has encountered less than one per cent of customers who have asked for a delay of installation.

"It's a system upgrade," Olynyk said. "The smart meters are safe. They're not going to impact health. There's a lot of misinformation and we have to do a good job of getting the correct information out to people."

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