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[January 24, 2013]
2 meter opponents arrested in Naperville: 'A society of violating one another'
Jan 24, 2013 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Two vocal opponents of Naperville's initiative to install wireless electric meters on homes were arrested after interfering with the installation process, according to city officials.
Police are accompanying crews this week as they install smart meters at homes that previously sent away installers.
"The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees' safety," City Manager Doug Krieger said.
Naperville has installed smart meters on 57,000 homes and is about 99 percent through with the process. Officials have said the project will make the electric system more reliable and efficient and reduce costs.
However, the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group has expressed concerns over whether the wireless meters will affect health, security and privacy. The group has a federal lawsuit pending against the city.
The two women arrested Wednesday are leaders of the group.
Malia "Kim" Bendis of the 2200 block of Mercer Court was charged with two misdemeanors -- attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer.
Jennifer Stahl of the 1400 block of Westglen Drive, received two ordinance violation citations -- interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.
Stahl, who was released from custody about 4:30 p.m., said when she refused the smart meter, installers accompanied by police cut the bicycle lock she had placed on her fence and entered her backyard. She then stood in front of her electric meter and refused to move.
"It was forced on my house today," she said. "It was really a violation. I violated something, but I've been violated too so I guess we're now in a society of violating one another." The city, which has repeatedly declared the wireless meters to be safe, offers a non-wireless alternative meter to residents with concerns. There is a $68.35 initial fee for a non-wireless meter plus a $24.75 monthly fee for manually reading it. Stahl said residents who want a non-wireless meter should not have to pay for it, and said she represents other homeowners who were not able to continue to refuse the wireless meter installation.
"I have not done the work of attempting to educate the community and advocating for the right of anybody in Naperville to refuse the smart meter just to stand off to the side," she said.
Bendis exited the Naperville Police Department about an hour later to handful of smart meter opponents who cheered for her release. She declined comment, citing the advice of her attorney.
Krieger defended the city moving forward with installation of the meters despite the objections from some homeowners.
"The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right," he said.
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