Baltimore, BGE Reach Settlement Over Use of Conduit System

Baltimore City officials have settled a lawsuit with Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. over how much the utility must pay to use the city’s century-old conduit system. The sides have battled over the issue since the city spending board voted more than a year ago to more than triple the fees companies pay to use the underground network.

As Reported by The Baltimore Sun,

 

According to the board agenda, the sides have reached “an agreed-upon conduit rental fee rate.” The settlement sets the rate through 2022.

The terra cotta conduit system, which dates to 1898, contains electric, telephone and fiber-optic cables. Companies that use the system pay the city semiannual fees.

BGE, which has rented space in the conduit system for more than 100 years, is its largest user, accounting for more than 75 percent of the capacity.

The utility and a group of telecommunication providers sued the city over the rate increase.

The new rate was expected to cost BGE about $30 million. The utility sought to offset the cost by charging Baltimore residents about $8 more per month. It estimated it would charge businesses between $15 and $3,350 more.

The utility said the city’s decision to raise rates had the potential to affect customers in eight Maryland counties.

A BGE spokesman said the agreement does not propose a surcharge for city residents. The spokesman, Aaron D. Koos, said it was premature to discuss the specific terms.

“We are hopeful that it will enable us to continue our partnership with the City in improving this important piece of infrastructure,” Koos said in a statement. “We worked closely with the City to identify a rate structure that saves customers a significant amount of money and still provides the City with the revenue needed to modernize the conduit system.”

The Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities,declined to comment Monday. A spokeswoman said the commission had not seen the terms of the agreement.

The city’s spending panel approved in September increasing the rate BGE pays to $3.33 from 98 cents per foot each year to use the conduit system, a vast underground network of space for utility lines. The Rawlings-Blake administration argued that the old rate was too low to cover the cost of upkeep, maintenance and upgrades to the system.

Users of the system include Comcast and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The university, which uses the conduits to provide phone, data, and electricity to its campus, has said the increase would cost it an additional $100,000 annually.

The Public Service Commission agreed in June to let BGE raise rates for the fifth time since 2010, but regulators limited the increase to less than half of what the utility initially requested to recover investments it had made.

The increase is projected to generate an additional $90 million a year for the company, raising the average residential customer’s monthly bill by about $7.53.

Local Governments across the state face the challenge of upgrading existing conduit systems in order to facilitate Next Generation 9-1-1 networks. Recognizing the challenges associated with this transition, local governments have been collaborating on how to best handle fiscal and policy issues associated with this new technology.

At this year’s MACo Winter Conference, you can learn about the best practices, challenges, and implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1.

Here are more details:

Title: Fighting Fire with Fiber? Connecting to Next Gen 9-1-1

Description: As 20th-century technologies phase out, counties must reinvent their emergency call systems. One key issue that must be addressed is how to fill the void of legacy systems that are no longer supported – through building costly and complicated fiber optic and wireless services to replace them. While the technology to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through relating to technology standards, the process of transition, governance, and funding. In this session, panelists will highlight local progress, identify, gaps, and offer ideas on how to best move forward with building a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 network.

Speakers:

  • Steve Souder, Director, Department of Public Safety Communications, Fairfax County, VA
  • Chris Merdon, CIO, Dept. of Technology and Communications, Howard County
  • Bill Ferretti, Director, 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center, Montgomery County
  • Richard Brooks, Department of Emergency Services, Cecil County

Moderator: The Honorable Cheryl C. Kagan, Maryland Senate

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 7, 2016; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December  7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “An Ounce of Prevention.”

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: