Aegis Open Forum: More on the BGE gas meter controversy

Letter to the editor

August 19, 2011

Editor:

The Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission would like to thank Ms. Bryna Zumer for her articles in The Aegis newspaper and The Record newspaper of Aug. 5, relating the commission's concern with the Baltimore Gas and Electric company and the installation of exposed gas lines and outdoor gas meters in the Havre de Grace historic district.

Apparently, there is some misinformation circulating.

The commission was initially approached by Bernie Hilditch, BGE gas design, in a letter dated Dec. 28, 2009 that BGE wold be replacing the gas services to properties located along South Union Avenue from Girard Street to Bourbon Street, and Bourbon Street to Market Street. He requested a response from the commission as to where the commission preferred gas meters to be located on a property.

After discussion and review of BGE's metering manual materials (manual materials 700, dated September 2006), on Jan. 25, 2010, the commission voiced in a letter that it preferred no installation of meters on fronts/facades of buildings in the historic district, whenever possible. Preference would be an installation five feet down the side of a structure, wherever possible, with consideration to easy access by emergency personnel.

Unlike BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy's quoted comments, the commission heard nothing more from BGE until a meeting Aug. 5, 2011 at LaCle` D'or Guesthouse, attended by Joseph Opert, BGE principal engineer John Scoffield, BGE onsite manager, Carol Nemeth and myself, discussing some of the concerns raised by residents affected along the aforementioned streets.

Previously, the commission had discussed citizenry concerns about the BGE installation with Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, Bill Reeder of the Havre de Grace Department of Public Works, and Havre de Grace City Council President Bill Martin, July 5 at City Hall.

Based upon these citizenry complaints, safety concerns and visual eyesores caused by BGE sub-contractors, I addressed a letter, June 15, to Mr. Hilditch voicing some. With city fathers' urging, copies of all communications were sent to BGE, the mayor's office, Havre de Grace City Council, local news media and the Maryland Public Service Commission.

In this letter, I wrote that the Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission "regrets that BGE does not seem to treat the historically-sensitive, and uniquely different, nationally/state/and locally recognized Havre de Grace Historic District any different than general, newly-developed tract housing … exceptions must be addressed and made. Individual situations may prove unsafe, even dangerous, hazardous, unsightly or an eyesore; if BGE's mandates for uniformity are forced and applied."

Fortunately, since the meeting of Aug. 5, with another Aug. 12, the commission has a much better working relationship with BGE to address citizenry concerns. Washington Street properties will be the next ones targeted by BGE for gas system replacement. Hopefully, BGE will address future affected property owners by letter, will include BGE and Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission contact information (as a representative for the city) and will work with residents to lessen the impact of system changes upon their properties.

Still, it is the responsibility of property owners to question BGE action, when in doubt.

Through these efforts, we hope that BGE wand the Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission can work together in the Havre de Grace Historic District. This is a unique, historic area with unique structures and does require special consideration and exemptions, unlike The Aegis Aug. 10 editorial would have one believe.

Ronald G. Browning

Chairman, Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission

The writer is a community columnist for The Record, sister paper to The Aegis.

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