Sensors and Sensibility 

"The problem, quite frankly is the construct; ACHD is a single-purpose government that has been given jurisdiction in places over a general-purpose government."

The city of Boise wants to install 811 smart meters throughout the downtown area.

George Prentice

The city of Boise wants to install 811 smart meters throughout the downtown area.

Pardon our schadenfreude but we envision a day when an Ada County Highway District commissioner finds a city of Boise parking ticket tucked under their windshield wiper. It might be devilishly delicious if that expired meter was connected to a sensor embedded in the pavement that ACHD lords over.

By now, Boise Weekly readers know the drill: ACHD rules the roads, the city of Boise rules, well, everything except the roads.

"The problem, quite frankly is the construct; ACHD is a single-purpose government that has been given jurisdiction in places over a general-purpose government," said Boise Councilwoman Elaine Clegg. "Even a political science major would tell you it doesn't work."

The construct is in destruct mode this summer, as the controversy over so-called "smart" meters" and sensors that make them smart spiraled this past week into a lawsuit, dueling press releases and a constituency that wants the whole thing to be settled.

Here's what we know:

-The city wants to install 811 smart meters that, through the embedded sensors, will be able to detect which spaces are free and communicate with an app that will allow motorists to feed the meter remotely.

-The city has installed 89 smart meters with sensors.

-The city already has more than 100 smart meters ready to be installed.

-Ada County is the only county in the U.S. in which cities don't control their own roads.

"But at least three ACHD commissioners [Rebecca] Arnold, [Sara] Baker and [Mitchell] Jaurena disagree on the city's technology choice and parking policies," said Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan. "ACHD has no statutory authority on our technology and policies. Will utility infrastructure be denied because a few commissioners disagree with rates or choice of pipe?"

City officials insisted that ACHD's demand for a license agreement on the technology was simply none of ACHD's business.

"I'm as confused as much as the public as to what the real gut issue is here," said Councilman David Eberle.

ACHD gave the city a 10-day ultimatum to meet its terms or risk the removal of the embedded sensors. When the city waited until the 11th hour to submit a permit application, ACHD crews were ready to dig up the sensors. That, in turn, prompted the city to seek a restraining order to halt any removal.

"It never should have come to this," said ACHD President John Franden, after agreeing to halt removal of any sensors.

Clegg added that the council was "dumbfounded but anxious" to resolve the matter.

UPDATE: August 8, 2014

In spite of some glimmer of compromise, the ACHD Board of Commissioners met twice behind closed doors to consider the City of Boise's permit applications. But on August 7, the ACHD announced that it was rejecting the paperwork and, instead returned to the issue of a licensing agreement which it still insisted on forging with the City of Boise.

The Boise City Council will take up the issue once more on Tuesday, Aug. 12 when lawmakers will consider an appeal of ACHD's decision.

Meanwhile, there is no word on the fate of the embedded sensors.

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