After hearing presentations from both Consumers Energy and those in support of House Bill 4916, a bill which would give all residential and business customers in Michigan the right to choose what type of meter is installed on their home or business, the Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners voted against passing a resolution of support of the bill. At a previous board meeting, Dennis McKee of Consumers Energy presented information to the board regarding the new technology and the process the company is going through to switch out the old analog meters with the “smart meters.” At that same meeting, several county residents expressed their concerns about the new meters and the things that happen to people who are sensitive to the electromagnetic pulses they put out, including Jamie Chimner and her husband. At the Aug. 9 board meeting, the commissioners were presented with a resolution of support of the bill presented by Representative Lee Chatfield that, if passed, would allow people to choose to keep their analog meter rather than be forced to switch to the new technology. “The last meeting we discussed whether we should support Lee Chatfield’s cosponsored amendment for the utility choice bill that would allow customers to keep their analog meters,” said Indian River resident John Kurczewski. Kurczewski said he doesn’t think Consumers Energy needs to worry about such a small number of their customers that choose to keep their analog meters. He feels that there is such a small number of people who know about keeping the analog meters because there has been a virtual media blackout about the issue, citing several different stories that were researched but never run. He thinks this is because of the large amount of advertising Consumers Energy does with the media outlets that were going to do the story. Kurczewski has paid the fee to keep his analog meter and to have someone come out and read it monthly. He said he also feels that if someone wants to stay with an analog meter to keep from having the health side effects from the new meter they should be given that option. Joseph Chimner said he and his wife did not make the choice to go off the grid, but they were forced to by the power company. He had watched his wife’s health deteriorate for some time after the new meter was placed on their home. “I did a little research, pulled the breaker,” said Joseph Chimner. “The next morning, she’s at the doctor’s office, doing jumping jacks, where, the day before, it took her four hours to get her pain under control. She lost her will to life, now she is doing all kinds of things.” Chimner said he hopes the commissioners vote in favor of the people’s choice on the resolution. His wife Jamie also urged the commissioners to vote from their heart and vote to support the house bill. One of the reasons Consumers Energy is making the push to go toward the use of the smart meters over the older technology is because the older technology is more susceptible to theft and fraud. “Although that has not been an issue related to anything that’s been discussed here previously, or anybody in particular at all,” said McKee. “The meters have been known, if you go on the internet and look at ways to conduct theft or fraud, they’re more easy to manipulate. That can be done magnetically; it can be done by removing the device and replacing it in a matter in which it’s not supposed to be replaced. There are any number of ways they can be used for fraud or theft.” The commissioners have had a lot of presentations and a lot of discussion regarding the matter over the last several months. After the report from Consumers Energy, County Commissioner Chair Pete Redmond had asked County Administrator Jeff Lawson to draft a resolution. “What it amounts to in a nutshell is the resolution that you have in front of you is based on the bill that’s been introduced, House Bill 4916, by our local rep Lee Chatfield,” said Redmond. The resolution called for the energy companies to allow people to have the choice between getting the new meters or keeping their analog meters without fees, stating the commissioners supported the concepts of the house bill. It also asked the Michigan Public Service Commission, MPSC, to look into the concerns of the citizens who want to keep their analog meters. Commissioner John Wallace said he does not feel it is the county’s prerogative to regulate or interfere with the utility companies or their relations with their customers. Commissioner Chris Brown echoed these sentiments, saying the MPSC is the one who governs the utility companies. “I’m all in favor of a competition market in the energy field,” said Brown. “I don’t believe that because it’s an essential service that we should be forced to have one choice for this and have it or leave it. I believe we should have choices. So I do support the aspect of people having a choice for something but I don’t believe it’s our purview to dictate to them how they are supposed to govern their board as well.” Commissioners Bruce Gauthier and Sue Allor voted in support of the resolution, while Commissioners Brown, Wallace, Pete Redmond, Cal Gouine and Tony Matelski voted against it.