WESTMINSTER - City Council members -- faced with choosing whether utility lines will be moved to the north side of the street, the alleys or placed underground -- have decided to seek citizen input on the East Main Street reconstruction plan.
The special meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Westminster Fire Hall, also will hear citizen's concerns about trees, sidewalks and widening the street.
"This is certainly a decision where we can solicit opinions of people," Councilman Mark S. Snyder said Monday, adding that some residents have said they want the lines in the alley or underground.
"It is presumptuous of us to impose our decision upon the people," he said. "I'm 99 percent sure the result will be the same as if we decided, but there is a way of doing things."
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said, "We have assured the people they would have a say with the trees, utility poles and sidewalks."
Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. estimated that moving the poles and wires to the north side of the street would cost $300,000, moving them to the alleys, $500,000, and burying them, $1.8 million.
The State Highway Administration will bear part of the cost.
Councilman William F. Haifley, concerned that delays would harm the project, was reluctant to wait for citizen comment.
"I'm all in favor of hearing what the people have to say, but let's not sit on our hands and let this project go by the wayside," said the Main Street resident.
"I can look at poles and wires for a long time before I'd be forced to spend that kind of money."
Brown assured the council that there was time for the meeting.
"It's not going to cost anything to wait," he said. "The state is pushing for April, but the original (starting) date was August."
Before the meeting, property owners will receive letters that will provide estimates of how much it might cost them if they have to move the service connections for electricity, telephone and cable television within their homes.
Councilman Samuel V. Greenholtz said, "Enough places have had this kind of thing done, like Frederick; we can get numbers."
Haifley, a former BG & E employee for 37 years, estimated that it would cost owners $500 to $1,000 to change the electricity connections, not including moving service stations for telephone and cable television.
BG & E spokesman John A. Metzger said the company could not verify that estimate because the work must be done by an electrician.
Some Main Street businesses, such as the Billingslea Corp., already have paid to have electric service moved to the alley or buried.
The plan to relocate service to the north side of the street, to avoid interfering with telephone lines on the south side, may leave the buildings with poles in the front and back of their buildings.
"That seems like little enough money to get the poles off Main Street," said James Billingslea Sr., noting that these business owners have spent more than $1,000 to upgrade their properties.
Although the cost may be expensive for some home owners on Main, Billingslea said the wiring may be so old that it should be replaced anyway.
"In a number of properties, the service may be inadequate and it's actually a fire hazard," he said.