Leggett, Council Spar Over Public Utility Discussion
Council to continue the investigation, though executive thinks purchasing Pepco 'not feasible.'
County Executive Isiah Leggett dug in his heels Tuesday at a meeting with the Montgomery County Council, calling the idea to condemn Pepco and municipalize the utility "not feasible."
The meeting comes just days after county attorney Marc Hansen told council members that to acquire the utility would mean going through the Maryland General Assembly and the Maryland Public Service Commission, as well as paying Pepco fair market value for its infrastructure.
"It was appropriate to ask the question, but now we have the answer, an answer that I think in many ways suggests that this is not a viable option," Leggett (D) said. "Now and for the foreseeable future, they will still be the utility. So we need to find a way to fight them, push them, and encourage them to do better."
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1), who has been at the forefront of the inquiry into how Montgomery County would go about taking over the electric company's infrastructure, acknowledged that it would take "a big chunk of change." But he said that it would be worth continuing the process.
"Nothing suggests that this can't be done," Berliner said.
Other council members agree.
"I think we're at the beginning of what will be a multi-year process," said Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large). "It's premature to for anyone to say whether it's feasible or not."
"Our next step is to ask for a memo from the Attorney General [Doug] Gansler," said Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large). "It's too early to interrupt a discussion."
While council members want to continue the discussion, Leggett said that the idea of a takeover is an empty threat to the power company, which has seen widespread and lasting power outages over the last year, and continuing the discussion would not lead to improved service.
"We went to the General Assembly last year and that was a real threat. We went to the public service commission, and that was a real threat," Leggett said. "For a threat to be effective, you must have a capacity to potentially carry it out."