Helicopter in Westminster scouting for BGE power lines

There wasn't a FBI manhunt in Westminster; a prisoner hadn't escaped from the Carroll County Detention Center; nor was there a super secret spy mission occurring in town.

Rather, the helicopter seen hovering low around Md. 140 Monday morning was scouting for power lines for Baltimore Gas and Electric, said Joseph McKelvey, airport manager at Carroll County Regional Airport.

The helicopter will be doing electric utility line work in the area for the next few weeks, McKelvey said.

BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said each year BGE uses helicopters to survey and patrol its power lines and infrastructure in the area.

Each year, BGE takes a comprehensive survey of 20 percent of its utility and power lines with a camera, Lighty said, this year BGE is surveying Carroll County.

She said residents can plan to see the helicopter in the area through the end of May.

"We're looking at the encroaching of vegetation and structures on the right-of-way and normal wear and tear; we had a pretty harsh winter," Lighty said.

In total, BGE uses a helicopter four times during the year for different studies, Lighty said. The helicopter is used bi-annually for a study of 100 percent of the BGE service area, annually for a comprehensive study of a selected 20 percent of the coverage area and an infrared study in August of the entire coverage area surveying power peaks and loads, Lighty said.

According to Lighty, BGE uses the surveys as a proactive measure to improve reliability in its service area. She said the survey will have little impact on Carroll County residents.

Carroll County residents should not be alarmed by the red-and-white helicopter hovering around the Westminster area this week, according to officials from the Carroll County Office of Public Safety.

Residents gawked from their cars along Md. 140 and people working and shopping in the area of the low-hovering helicopter Monday offered various theories and rumors on the reason it was around - ranging from a jail escapee to a spy mission.

Carroll County Office of Public Safety Administrator Scott R. Campbell said they received calls about the helicopter Monday and started investigating before determining it wasn't a public safety issue.

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