There was an unexpected twist during the Baltimore City Board of Estimates meeting on Wednesday morning, two of the five voting members didn’t show up in protest when it came time to vote on a controversial deal with Baltimore Gas and Electric.
The Board of Estimates is the city’s spending board that approves all contracts.
City Council President, Nick Mosby and City Comptroller Bill Henry decided to miss the meeting to prevent a quorum on the scheduled vote for the city’s conduit agreement with Baltimore Gas and Electric. But Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott asserts that quorum for such a board is only three members.
The BGE contract enables the private utility business to have access to the city-owned underground conduit system by paying for network repairs instead of paying city fees, according to The Baltimore Banner.
The agreement means that BGE wouldn’t directly pay the city access fees and instead will pay $134 million for ‘system improvements’ between 2023 and 2027. In addition, BGE would pay the city $1.5 million each year in maintenance fees. The city will collect $6.5 million more than what was collected under a previous agreement in 2016, according to the Scott administration.
The city’s conduit is an underground network spanning more than 740 miles of wires that send power to devices from street lights to traffic signals and even the key to phone and internet service for residents.
Baltimore City voters already voted to prohibit the sale of its underground conduit system in November 2022 with nearly 77% of voters in favor of the charter amendment and 23% against the measure, according to the Maryland Board of Elections results.
The Baltimore City Board of Estimates consists of: Mayor Scott, president of the city council, the comptroller, the city solicitor, and the director of public works. The president of the city council serves as president of the Board of Estimates, and the city comptroller serves as secretary to the board.