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Baltimore City Council’s investigative committee further scrutinizes conduit deal with BGE

Baltimore City Hall.
Courtesy of Evergreene Architectural Arts
Baltimore City Hall.

The meeting began with council member Eric Costello — who chairs the committee — asking if Baltimore Gas and Electric paid $14 million beforehand as part of the conduit deal.

Baltimore City officials responded by saying they received and cashed a check earlier in the day.

“What happens if there’s not an actual agreement in place?” Costello asked. “We would have $14 million of someone else’s money, right?”

“We’re confident that there is,” responded Acting City Solicitor, Ebony Thompson.

Last month, Mayor Brandon Scott and two appointees approved a multimillion dollar deal with the private utility. In that agreement, BGE will pay the city $134 million dollars to repair the aging conduit.

Previously, the city collected rental fees and made its own repairs.

Though less tense than prior gatherings, this sparsely attended meeting followed a formulaic format of question and answer. Council members raised concerns about communication or the lack thereof, rate savings and the lack of minority and women owned business requirements in the agreement.

A BGE representative attended the meeting, but declined to testify before the council.

But during an exchange with council member Odette Ramos — about BGE’s failure to give customers proper notice regarding repairs — Ervin McDaniel, senior external affairs manager for BGE, did however, acknowledge that the company has room for improvement.

“A brand new community engagement team has been created to focus on that,” McDaniel said. “[We have] additional vendors to help with outreach and support across the city and across the service territory.”

Another point of contention occurred when Council President, Nick Mosby queried about the absence of a minority-and-women-owned business clause in the conduit deal.

“Many folks in this council were upset that the administration did not have local hiring requirements in this deal,” Mosby said.

“Understood and noted sir,” replied Thompson who negotiated the deal.

Next month, the Board of Estimates, the city’s spending board, is expected to vote for a second time on the agreement.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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