Motorists traveling through central Bel Air and residents of many nearby neighborhoods can't miss what seems like the interminable construction work related to replacing underground gas lines.
Town officials have been saying for weeks that the work by Baltimore Gas & Electric and its contractors should be drawing to a close, but Tuesday they conceded that might not be the case.
A number of streets have been torn up and temporarily patched going back to when the work began the late winter. And, with much underground utility construction, steel plates get placed over excavated areas of the streets after the crews finish for the day.
"BGE doesn't appear to be moving along like they thought they were," Mayor Robert Reier said during a town commissioners work session Tuesday evening. "Hopefully they will be correcting all the damage they've done to our streets."
Steve Kline, the acting public works director, said he has been trying to pin down BGE for a completion date, so far without success.
He did explain that the company and its contractors are obligated to repair the streets to town standards. In the case of Brooks Road in the Howard Park neighborhood, he said BGE agreed to repave the entire block-long street.
BGE's Operation Pipeline is designed to replace aging gas lines within a neighborhood, both mains and individual customer lines, according to BGE spokesperson Aaron Koos, who said Bel Air is among 15 locations around the state where crews are working this summer.
Some of the work is pre-emptive, he explained. The company may find an area where a main has been leaking and decide to expand the work to individual service lines.
"We basically know we may have to replace lines in a neighborhood soon enough that it's more efficient to do everything at once," Koos said. The old cast iron and steel pipes are being replaced with what he called "durable plastic pipe."
The Bel Air work encompasses most of the central business district along North and South Main Street, as well as West Broadway and West Gordon streets and a portion of Howard Park.
As of Thursday, Koos said 92 percent of the main line replacement is complete, while about 54 percent of the service line replacements are finished. He said a total of 272 customers are due to have their service lines – and in some cases meters – replaced.
"We expect the whole project should be finished in late fall, in the October time frame," he said.
Koos also noted that as work progresses, streets that have been torn up may initially receive temporary cold patching but once all the underground work is done, permanent patches will be made and the road surfaces will be milled to even them up.
BGE has been doing similar work along Route 22 (Churchville Road) from Tudor Lane in Fountain Green to Carsins Run Road east of Churchville. Koos said that project is "wrapping up" and will be completed this summer.
The town commissioners will hold their only town meeting of July this Monday, July 21, at town hall beginning at 7:30 p.m.
One of the items on the agenda will be consideration of an increase in the credit card "convenience fee" charged when people use plastic to pay their red light camera fines. Under the proposal, the fee will increase from $3.95 to $5 effective Aug. 1, Finance Director Lisa Moody explained.
The commissioners will also be giving final approval to the purchase of a John Deere backhoe for $100,309, less an $18,000 trade for the town's 14-year-old backhoe, from JESCO Inc. in Rosedale.
Tentative approval was given Tuesday because, as Kline explained, there was a midnight deadline under which the town would save $18,000 through a piggyback contract with Montgomery County.
Also expected to be approved is a $44,800 contract to repave the town hall parking lot. Kline said the work will be done by J. Goettner Construction of Kingsville, which is also handing the town's summer street paving program.
The town is also preparing to four emergency generators for four of its sewage pumping stations at a cost of $122,000, of which $66,000 is coming through a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant.