In addition to writing this blog, I am one of the five members of the Town of Chevy Chase’s Town Council and the current Town Treasurer. The following is an unofficial summary of our meeting last Wednesday.
The Town Council met in closed session from 5:30-7pm to discuss (1) potential litigation as it relates to the Purple Line, (2) an Open Meetings Act complaint, and (3) a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request.
Mayor Pat Burda made remarks on the Town’s actions regarding the Purple Line. Here is part of her statement:
I was quoted in the Washington Post as saying “the Town is not lobbying Congress.” The statement, which I attempted to clarify before it reached the printed Sunday Post, referred specifically to an inquiry about lobbying the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I also said that it would be foolish to try to lobby Congress to defund the project given Senator Mikulski’s position as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
To fully set the record straight, the Town is speaking to Members of Congress to raise the same concerns we raised with the Maryland Transportation Administration about the proposed Purple Line project. It is our hope that through this effort of educating decision makers about the currently proposed Purple Line, that the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) will carefully consider all of the facts before them.
The Council was not ready to take action at this meeting, but plans on holding a special meeting next week at which it may take action. This meeting will be announced in advance and open to the public. All members of the Council thanked the Mayor for the incredible amount of time she has spent and hard work she has done on this issue.
Undergrounding Utilities—PEPCO Preliminary Cost Estimate
The Town received a letter from PEPCO dated February 6 which gave their preliminary estimate to bury the power lines in the town as:
$50 million, not including undergrounding telecommunication lines, any upgrade work required by the customer, or installation of new street lights. Costs incurred by each customer would range from $5000 to $15,000 for meter box upgrades, burying services wires and internal electrical upgrades, if needed.
PEPCO has promised to provide a more detailed cost per mile estimate to the Town within two weeks that:
will consider actual Town street mileage of 9.94 miles (versus 10 miles) as well as physical conditions in the field, including Town street width, as it impacts excavation around other utilities and traffic control, and the number and location of existing public and private trees and landscaping.
PEPCO will also provide a price quote on the cost to the Town for PEPCO:
to perform a one line schematic and conduit schematic and conduit schematic in order to further refine the ‘costs per mile’ estimate.
The letter also reaffirmed that PEPCO will not help to pay for undergrounding the Town’s power lines:
As PEPCO officials indicated at the Town’s public meeting on December 5, 2013, the Town would be responsible for all costs associated with undergrounding electrical lines in the Town.
New Power Reliability Task Force
As we continue to explore the cost and benefits of undergrounding power lines, the Town needs to consider other options designed to address the very real concerns and frustrations of Town residents with the reliability of power service in the Town.
During the course of meetings on this topic, a number of residents with real knowledge and expertise on this topic offered innovative or alternative ideas. For example, some suggested that we should explore getting PEPCO to improve the robustness of the network by making it possible to shift electricity from one feeder to another when the power goes out. Another has suggested that the Town create a town-wide micro grid using large-scale fuel cells.
As a result, I proposed that the Mayor appoint a Task Force of residents to explore alternative reliability strategies. The Task Force could work with PEPCO and also make a proposal to the Town Council for outside expertise that would enable them to conduct their work more effectively. I was pleased that the Town Council approved the proposal unanimously.
I encourage anyone interested in participating in the Task Force to email the Mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org along with information about the expertise that you would bring to the Task Force.
Town Election Procedures
The Town Council voted 4-1 (with Councilmember Bickerman voting against) to adopt the Staff Proposal for the conduct of runoff Town elections in the event of tie. The runoff elections would occur in a similar manner to regular elections. Residents would be notified of the runoff via postcard and other Town communication methods. Over a 20-day period, residents could go vote in the Town Office or request a ballot via email which would be delivered to their home.
The Town Council decided 4-1 (with Councilmember Strom voting against) to not notify residents in the Forecast which incumbents will file to seek reelection.
Despite the division on the votes, most members of the Council did not feel especially strongly about either issue and were happy to reach a reasonable conclusion on both matters.
Meadow Lane Preliminary Landscaping Plan
The Council reviewed the preliminary plan for the public right-of-way along the former Li property on Meadow Lane. The Council agreed 4-0 (with Councilmember Bickerman abstaining) to move forward with the proposal. Councilmember Al Lang expressed that he felt it important to proceed with taking care of this matter and enhancing the pedestrian walkway and the right of way, as a plan along these lines was part of the promise by the Town to residents when the property was subdivided. The Council also expressed to the neighboring resident who attended the meeting that we would be happy to work with her on the nature of the plantings adjoining her property. The proposal is not designed or intended to facilitate public use of the private properties adjacent to the public right-of-way. If anything, the plan should have the opposite effect.
After quickly approving the minutes and the financial report, the Council adjourned at 8:30 as snow had already begun to fall.