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Falls reviews smart meters

Officials questioning cost, monthly opt-out fee

NEWTON FALLS — Although the village spent $3.1 million on smart meters for water and electricity, some village officials want to put the installation project on hold.

“The village is broke, and we are buying things we can’t afford and don’t need. We were told the return on the meters after 15 years was $491,000,” village resident Jim Luonuansuu said during a recent meeting.

He said until the village’s finances are in order, no more meters should be installed.

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said the smart meter program was not done properly.

“I voted against it. We need to look at the program we have in place,” he said.

Officials are second-guessing the monthly fee residents must pay to opt out of the smart meters and questioning the programs expenses at a time when money is tight.

Residents were sent a postcard indicating it would cost $29 per month to opt out of the program; 25 customers have so far. A new opt-out rate of $5.50 per month is being proposed.

Council scheduled a caucus session at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 before the council meeting begins to review the matter.

Officials said they will wait on a motion on new opt-out rates and recommendations until after the Nov. 1 caucus. The matter was tabled until the Nov. 15 meeting.

The village recently gave the first reading to increasing water rates, which Luonuansuu said also is a concern for residents and local business owners.

He said his water bill last month was $346 for a one-floor home with three people, which he called “ridiculous.”

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