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Canada’s St. Albert’s city council has voted against an opt-out programme for the city’s new smart water meters.

The first reading of amendments to the water bylaw, which would have allowed the opt-out programme to proceed, failed this week.

Kevin Cole, director of utilities, told city councillors that he was confident the city could break even on the cost of an opt out programme if a new fee schedule was approved.

Those proposed fees included $35 per reading, which currently occurs every two months; a $35 installation fee for homeowners who decide they want the RF transmitter after the programme is rolled out; and a $50 removal fee for homeowners who decide they do not want the transmitter after it has already been installed.

Aside from a fee schedule, the proposed bylaw changes would have also introduced new definitions for what would constitute “standard meter reading,” “remote reading device” and “non-standard meter reading.”

Cole said about 5,000 homes have thus far had their meters upgraded, with 32 customers objecting to the upgrade. Some home owners waited to see what opt-out options were available, before making a decision.

Mayor Cathy Heron, Counsellor Jacquie Hansen and Counsellor Natalie Joly voted against the first reading, arguing one water meter programme would be more efficient than two.

“I really don’t think we need to be running two programs, when one program is going to be very effective,” said Hansen.

“I think as a society, we’re moving toward smart technology, and this is our opportunity to get on board.”

The meters use a radio frequency (RF) transmitter to send data and have raised concerns among residents regarding the potential for health risks.

Another controversial aspect generating discussion concerns the protection of personal data and the potential for violations.

The city started exploring opt-out options shortly after the $6.4 million water meter replacement programme began and negative feedback was generated by those opting for RF-Free lifestyles.

The meter itself, replacing the city’s current aging water meters, would still need to be installed, and residents opting out of the RF transmitter would require a manual reading of their meter.