Members of the Prince George's County Council complained to Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric Tuesday about the utilities' performance during Hurricane Irene, but the worst criticism went to BG&E.
While council members said Pepco made noticible improvements in customer service and numbers of outages from storms earlier this year, BG&E was blasted for lack of communication to customers and poor planning.
Tuesday's meeting was the first time since the hurricane that companies addressed the council on their performance.
Councilwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) complained that one school in her district was closed for five days due to power outages.
Harrison said she’s been a BG&E customer all of her life and can never recall such bad service during a storm.
“I’m very dissatisfied in the level of service from BG&E that we saw,” she said. “I don’t think it’s our responsibility to do the coordinating…I’m just really disappointed. I don’t even remember anything having as bad as it was [during the aftermath of the storm].”
Councilwoman Mary A. Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel told officials that her community was plagued by downed trees that cut power in the Laurel area.
Along Brooklyn Bridge Road in West Laurel, she said, a downed tree blocked the roadway for days. Lehman said that because BG&E did not adequately communicate with Verizon, which has lines running through the area, and the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, which has right-of-way, power stayed off for days.
“It seems there was a real lack of coordination with BG&E, Department of Public Works and Transportation, and Verizon,” she said.
Darryl Stokes, vice president of engineering and standards for BG&E, said that the situation in West Laurel was not normal.
“That was an unusual event in terms of coordination,” he said, adding that the tree disrupted a trunk line that could have taken out telephone service for most of the county.
During the peak of outages, more than 750,000 BG&E customers lost power during Irene—35 percent, or 80,435, were in Prince George’s County, according to the company. BG&E officials said that the county had the lowest outage rate per customer served in the company's nine-county territory.
By comparison, more than 137,000 Pepco customers in Prince George’s County were without power. Pepco restored power to 98 percent of its customers within 50 hours, according to the company.
Chris Burton, senior vice president of operations and planning for BG&E, conceded that the severity of the hurricane tested several processes and procedures that held during smaller storms.
“The scope of the storm certainly challenged us," he said.
Burton told the council that the company was in the process of developing better procedures to handle service outages and customer service during future storms. He said that a plan would be in place before winter.