The resolution the council passed to request the Public Service Commission to investigate the electric power reliability of BGE, the public utility serving Howard, in certain areas of the county was prompted by several neighborhoods experiencing multiple outages throughout the year unrelated to weather events.
"We have a good relationship with BGE," said Watson, the resolution's sponsor. "We appreciate all that they do. However, we also recognize that we have some areas of the county that we have to improve reliability."
The PSC, the state agency responsible for regulating public utilities, is already investigating several Ellicott City and Columbia neighborhoods. The current investigation started after Reliability4HOCO, a group of county residents frustrated with the multiple power outages they have experienced in recent years, filed a complaint with the PSC in February.
The council amended the resolution to direct the county solicitor "to take all reasonable and appropriate steps to intervene as a party in Case No. 9291 (the Reliability4HOCO case) to promote efficient resolution of the complaint of the County Council without undue duplication."
The resolution, which was cosponsored by Columbia Democrats Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, requests the PSC to add 193 streets to the investigation: 127 in Ellicott City; 39 in Columbia; 9 in North Laurel; six in Clarksville; six in Jessup; two in Elkridge; two in Marriottsville; one in Woodstock; and one in West Friendship.
In addition to investigating the chronic outages, the resolution asks that the PSC require BGE to provide the county with detailed outage information, including addresses of affected residences, for places where power has not been restored within 24 hours after an outage. Watson said this provision is aimed at making sure county emergency operations teams can get resources to people who are without power for long periods of time.
Fox recused himself from voting the resolution because he works for Constellation Energy. Constellation and BGE are both a part of the Exelon Corporation.
Livable homes tax credit
The council unanimously passed a bill to authorize a property tax credit for homeowners installing certain accessibility features within their homes, such as access ramps, widened doorways, grab bars in bathrooms and stair glides or elevators.
Terrasa introduced the bill, which is cosponsored by Ball, to help households that would like to provide more accommodations for seniors or individuals with disabilities.
Before passing the bill, she amended it to change to the name of the credit from the universal design tax credit to the livable homes tax credit to better convey the purpose of the credit.
Terrasa also amended the bill to include "alarms, appliances and controls structurally integrated into the unit designed to assist an individual with a sensory disability" in the list of eligible features and to require the Department of Finance to report once a year to the council on the use of the tax credit.
"I think we're doing a really good thing here ... I'm happy we'll be supporting seniors and individuals with disabilities to live more independently," Terrasa said.
Fox attempted to revise the bill to include a three-year sunset provision to ensure people didn't have the expectation it would be around forever, but the other members rejected his amendment. Despite that, Fox still voted for the bill.
"(Terrasa) looked into a number of things that I did have concerns about," he explained.
The tax credit only applies to features installed in existing residences. To be eligible for the credit, homeowners must have installed the feature within a year of applying for it and spent at least $500.
The amount of the proposed credit is the lesser of $2,500 or 50 percent of the cost to install the feature.
The bill puts an annual cap of $100,000 on the total amount of credits the county can award. Credits would be granted in the order in which applications are received by the Department of Finance, with any coming in after the annual cap has been reached being deferred until the next fiscal year.