Gas service for Mount Airy is the topic of hearing Ordinance would grant BG&E; franchise SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield


The Mount Airy Town Council has scheduled a public hearing at 8 p.m. Monday to hear comments on Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s proposal to install natural gas lines and offer gas service within town limits.

As expected, the Town Council last week introduced an ordinance that would grant BG&E; a franchise to operate within the town.

The council is expected to take final action on the ordinance at its Oct. 4 meeting.

Council members have maintained that they wanted to hear public comment before acting on the proposal. BG&E; officials approached the council in July.

The public hearing will be held at Town Hall, 2 Park Ave.

BG&E; officials held an open house this month at the Carroll County Public Library in Mount Airy to discuss the plans, but town officials said that few residents attended. The town has not received any calls against the franchise, Mount Airy officials said.

Mount Airy is not served by natural gas lines.

A franchise would permit BG&E; to lay gas lines and offer its services within town limits, but would not be an exclusive franchise, town and company officials said.

Frank Wanken, a BG&E; corporate affairs representative, told the council at its August meeting that Mount Airy service would be a $1 million investment for the company. The company wants to invest in the town because of growth in the area.

The company's marketing surveys show that restaurants and businesses in Mount Airy are interested in using natural gas for heat and cooking.

Company officials said that natural gas is the heating source preferred by homebuilders.

Mr. Wanken said that natural gas would be a boon for economic development and would help attract businesses to industrial parks.

Council members said they would require the company to agree to supply all Mount Airy residents, not just new construction and high-density areas.

The availability of natural gas would mean fuel choices for Mount Airy's nearly 4,000 residents, who now use propane, oil or electricity. BG&E; officials said natural gas could be available by January.

Mr. Wanken said he didn't know how many customers the company would gain should the Town Council approve a natural gas franchise.

He said that BG&E; already has a 20-inch, interstate feeder main pipeline along Route 144 that crosses Route 27 just south of Mount Airy.

When BG&E; officials first approached the council, members raised concerns about safety and the use of plastic pipe.

Those concerns have been resolved.

BG&E; officials have shown town officials what the plastic pipes look like and how they are connected.

The company buys only the best plastic, and recently laid plastic lines along Westminster's reconstructed Main Street, company officials said.

Because plastic is 50 percent cheaper than steel, there is less cost for the customer, Mr. Wanken said.

BG&E; has 525,000 gas customers in metropolitan Baltimore, and Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

The last municipal franchise granted to the company was in Manchester in 1965.

Most municipal agreements were written in the 1920s and 1930s, BG&E; officials said.

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