Resident asks council to back down on water meters stance

A resident has asked Ponoka town council to change its stance on no options for residents on wireless water meters.

A resident has asked Ponoka town council to change its stance on no options for residents on wireless water meters.

Greg Nelson spoke to town council Tuesday, May 24 during the pubic forum of the regular meeting.

His hope is that council will allow residents an option to have regular water meters rather than the wireless water meters already installed in the vast majority of the residences in town. Nelson has spoken with CAO Albert Flootman as well as RCMP on the issue.

He said his real concern with the water meters is over two specific issues: privacy and health. For the former Nelson said he has always been a private individual and he does not like knowing that someone could monitor his water usage remotely.

His other concern is over health. Nelson said, for him, the issue is about choice. In an effort to stay healthy he has chosen not to have wireless systems in his home, nor does he have a microwave. “Asbestos was once safe…please give us a choice.”

He said knowing that the town allows residents no choices on the matter has caused him some anxiety as he worried he would have his water cut off. Nelson added he would be willing to pay an extra $205 per year to allow him the choice, an amount to ensure cost recovery for manual reading.

Administration looking at options

Council was presented with an update on the hard holdouts of the wireless water meter system.

A refusal to complete dangerous work was filed by town utility operators over the last seven water meter installations in town. The refusal was made after concerns for their personal safety. Information was presented to councillors stating the last seven residents called themselves “freemen of the land.”

“Their fear stems from recent news stories of deaths from incidents with freemen of the land in Edmonton and Calgary,” the information states.

One employee lives two doors down from one of the hard holdouts and they feared for their safety within the community, it adds.

As a result of the refusal, the town determined it needed to bring in a contractor to do the work, which would involve a hazard assessment of the community, needing to be accompanied by an RCMP officer and Community Peace Officer. The water would then be turned off from the curb and if the resident complies then the water would be turned on.

If they do not comply, the town would notify Alberta Health within 72 hours as per the Housing Regulation under the Public Health Act. The town would then have to proceed with the legal process of access to the property.

Flootman said Nelson’s main concern is over having a choice. There are other municipalities and businesses that allow an opt out program with cost-recovery.

Flootman suggested that while council did make a motion last year, there is the potential to revisit the decision and make some allowance.

Mayor Rick Bonnett suggested if a choice is granted, other residents should have that option.

Council directed administration to come back with some suggestions on how to move forward and what the costs would be for manual reading.