Members of the Harford County Board of Estimates have approved a $84,487 contract with Baltimore Gas & Electric to cover the county's portion of the costs of building electric infrastructure for the new 911 Center being built north of Bel Air.

The contract price includes a 20.4 percent tariff to be paid by the county to BGE.

County officials broke ground on the new emergency operations center in August. The facility will replace the existing center on the same site off Ady Road and will house the Harford County Department of Emergency Services offices, the 911 Center, radio shop and HAZMAT team facilities.

Barkley Creighton, a project manager in the Bureau of Capital Projects Management, part of the Department of Public Works, told board estimates members during their meeting last Thursday that the payment will cover 50 percent of the project costs, plus a 20.4 percent "tax," or tariff charged by BGE.

Creighton said the county is required to pay the 20.4 percent tariff.

"We don't have any other options," she said.

Warren Hamilton, County Executive David Craig's citizen appointee to estimates, recognized the obligation but also described BGE as "a monopoly; they abuse us."

The $84,487 would cover Harford County's portion of two projects prepared by BGE officials, including one involving "off-site improvements that are necessary to increase the power needs for the new building," Creighton said.

The second project involves on-site improvements to connect the new emergency facility to the BGE power service, Creighton explained.

She said BGE engineers prepared the project costs based on their "cost modeling," and in accordance with the Public Service Commission.

Hamilton, along with fellow board members Debbie Henderson, director of procurement, county Treasurer Kathryn Hewitt, Public Works Director Tim Whittie and Craig, the board chairman, approved the contract.

County Council President Billy Boniface and Jay Van Deusen, the council's appointee to the board, were absent from the meeting.

Board members were surprised to learn about the tariff, and Craig asked county staffers present to look into the matter.

Rachael Lighty, a BGE spokeswoman, said Tuesday the tariff is part of the Contribution in Aid of Construction tax that the federal government charges BGE, which the utility then passes on to customers.

BGE requires customers to contribute 50 percent of the cost of extending services to new structures, such as the 911 Center.

"The Customer's contribution is subject to gross-up for Federal and State taxes that are imposed on the Company," according to documents on the tariff posted online through a link provided by staff with the Maryland Public Service Commission.

BGE is Harford's taxpayer, paying county taxes on its transmission facilities and equipment, as well as its real estate.

County plumbing services

The board also approved a $322,750 contract with G.E. Tignall & Co. Inc. of Cockeysville to serve as an on-call plumbing repair service to county agencies.

The contract is for one year with two one-year options to renew, according to bid documents. G.E. Tignall was the lowest of two bidders.