Resident left in dark sees hope in new power line installation


Harper's Choice village resident Michael Kushner has found a ray of light in several otherwise cold and protracted power outages that have darkened his house over the past six weeks.

He recently discovered that the blackouts apparently will cease being an almost regular occurrence in his Longfellow neighborhood once new power cables are installed.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is replacing sections of underground power cables and associated equipment in a west Columbia area serving about 1,700 customers after determining that defects in the systems were causing outages lasting between three and seven hours, said BG&E; spokesman John Metzger.

"I hope they have it fixed soon. I'm glad they're working on it," Mr. Kushner said. "It seemed like power was going out every Saturday night since Christmas night. People were getting surly around here."

The utility has started construction work to replace sections of lines in Longfellow and in the Faulkner Ridge neighborhood of Wilde Lake village, and expects to be finished by the end of the month, weather permitting, Mr. Metzger said.

The cables are about 20 years old, and could have been affected by corrosion or damaged by earth-moving machinery during other utility construction work, Mr. Metzger said.

"We've had several outages. That's reason for replacement," he said. "For whatever reason, there are damages and there could be further failures. This is something we have to do from time to time when we run into a situation like this."

Mr. Metzger said the company recorded power failures in certain sections of Harper's Choice and Wilde Lake for four hours and 11 minutes Dec. 26, six hours and 17 minutes Jan. 15 and three hours and 31 minutes Jan. 19, in addition to one momentary outage. Mr. Kushner contends that the power failures have been more frequent.

"To have [an outage] once in a while, that's life," Mr. Kushner said. "But every week, that's unacceptable, especially when [BG&E; officials] wouldn't tell me what's going on."

It didn't help that two of the outages occurred as the mid-January Arctic chill engulfed the region, but Mr. Kushner tried to look on the bright side.

"We woke up to a 42-degree house, which was great because the stuff in the fridge didn't go bad," joked Mr. Kushner, adding that his thermostat doesn't give a reading lower than 42 degrees.

Mr. Kushner said there have been times when power was out at his Light House Court home and on at a house across the street. During one outage, his family fled to the warmth of a friend's house, he said.

Mr. Metzger said it isn't unusual to have a power outage on only one side of a street since each side can be served by separate power lines.

Mr. Metzger said he couldn't estimate how much the project will cost, adding that costs for such work are spread to all the utility's customers.

BG&E; doesn't expect to have to turn off power to any customers while construction continues, Mr. Metzger said.

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