The town of Monroe has scheduled a special town meeting for Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. to vote on a proposed ordinance that would place a six-month moratorium on the installation of Central Maine Power’s “smart meters.”

Allyn Beecher, who helped circulate the petition that prompted the special town meeting and led an informational session on Aug. 16, said that CMP had failed to provide enough information on the new meters before installing them, specifically with regards to potential health concerns and the option to opt out.

The town meeting, he said, is intended to give residents a chance to voice their opinions.

In a joint letter published in the August 10 edition of The Republican Journal, the three members of the Monroe selectboard came out strongly against the proposed moratorium, noting that as of July 20, 92 percent of CMP customers in Monroe had already had smart meters installed.

The letter cited CMP claims that the devices comply with safety standards set by the Federal Communications Commission. It also noted the potential cost to the town.

“Every voter in Monroe needs to be fully aware of the ramifications of this moratorium,” the letter read. “If CMP should choose to dispute a moratorium, there will be legal costs that will affect every taxpayer.”

VillageSoup attempted to reach two of the Selectboard members on Aug. 16 for additional comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Beecher said there is a substantial amount of literature that suggests the cumulative effects of microwave radiation like that emitted from smart meters — but also from wireless Internet connections, cell phones and baby monitors — can be harmful, and that the FCC safety standards, dating to 1996, only take into account the thermal effects of radiation (i.e. burns), not the potential for other biological disruptions.

Recent studies have linked exposure to microwave radiation to a number of health problems, he said.

Given the 92 percent installation rate, some residents will likely see the discussion about smart meters as coming too late. But Beecher said he and others with concerns about smart meters launched the moratorium petition campaign as soon as they found out that CMP was installing the meters.

In the time required to get the necessary signatures, bring the petition before town selectboard and allow ample notice for the meeting, however, much of the conversion was completed.

“Nevertheless, we’re trapped in this process, and we can find out what the community has to say,” Beecher said. “And if there’s 8 percent of meters that aren’t installed yet, maybe we can stop them.”

The text of the Aug. 24 town meeting article asks: “Do the citizens of Monroe wish to place a 6 month moratorium on the installation of ‘smart meters’ that will use WIFI or transmit and receive information over the public air waves in the town of Monroe?”

The purpose of the moratorium, the article states, is to allow residents time to decide if the technology is “in the best interest of the people of the Town of Monroe.”

“The idea was to get a conversation going in the town about smart meters to see how people feel about it,” Beecher said. “We didn’t want to say, ‘You can’t do this.’ We wanted to get people together and have a conversation and vote on it.”

Beecher has been the public spokesman for several recent citizen-initiated ordinances, including the successful challenge to corporate personhood in 2010, and the failed Farm and Garden Ordinance voted on earlier this year, which sought certain exemptions for small farmers and protections against the liabilities of genetically modified seeds, among other things.

Asked if he worries that residents will become jaded toward proposals appearing to come from him, Beecher acknowledged the possibility.

“This is not a comfortable position to be in but it’s necessary for our democracy to survive,” he said. “If people don’t speak up in public for safety and public health, what kind of society are we living in?”

Beecher sat behind a table in a large room at the Town Hall where a modest number of benches had been set out for attendants. The meeting had been scheduled to start five minutes earlier, and aside from Beecher and two reporters, there were a total of four residents there, one of whom would walk out in apparent disgust within the first five minutes.

“Yeah, it’s not easy,” Beecher said.