Sale of Deep Creek Lake moving ahead Residents say they want more input in negotiating process

August 23, 1998|By Cindy Stacy | Cindy Stacy,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

McHENRY -- Despite missing a deadline in the negotiating process, a power company's sale of Deep Creek Lake to the state appears to be on track, officials for both sides said at a public meeting here yesterday.

About 200 people gathered at Garrett Community College for an update on the sale of the 73-year-old lake, which GPU Inc. put up for sale in March along with the hydroelectric dam that created it.

With the utility planning to auction the Western Maryland facility, along with 31 other plants, the state stepped in to ensure protection of the lake -- hailed as a state treasure by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the area's economic linchpin by Western Maryland business leaders.

The two sides missed a deadline at the end of July for reaching a sales agreement, prompting suspicion by Garrett County's Board of Commissioners and the 1,100-member Deep Creek Lake Property Owners' Association over the closed-door negotiations and lack of local input.

Retired Circuit Court Judge Fred A. Thayer, who chairs the local Lake Advisory Committee set up initially to pursue the purchase, said he had expected from a memorandum of understanding between GPU and the state that the sale -- which must be approved by the County Commissioners, state Board of Public Works and Maryland and Pennsylvania utility regulators -- would be completed by Sept. 30.

A number of residents said they wanted more local input in the negotiating process.

"The problem is that the July 31 deadline was not met and that concerns us," said Carl Roberts of Oakland. "The agreement called for regulatory approvals by the County Commissioners before Sept. 30 and here it is almost the end of August."

"I can appreciate you'd like the situation defined locally before we're asking for approval on the process," said James W. Dunmyer, Maryland's assistant secretary for public lands in the Department of Natural Resources. "But the approval process is not required by Sept. 30. That's merely the price."

Dunmyer and GPU spokesman Edward J. Shultz said they were "cautiously optimistic" that an agreement would be reached by Sept. 30. "GPU would not be at the table if it didn't want the state to get the lake," Shultz said. "But by the same token, we can't give it away."

"It's not meant to be a threat," said Dunmyer, "but I would put it at a 100 percent probability that the property will eventually be in state ownership."

The property owners association president, Roger Titus, drew laughs when he offered this translation of the situation: "When you get in a bargaining agreement with somebody who has the power to condemn, you make a deal. The question is what is the LTC deal. The governor has said the state is committed to getting the resource."

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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