Councilman Costello Criticizes DPW Over Communication About Utility Work

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Photo courtesy Baltimore DPW
Photo of a sinkhole from July, courtesy Baltimore DPW

Councilman Eric Costello is tired of hearing about surprise road repairs from residents and merchants in Mt. Vernon and Seton Hill.

Costello posted on a private Facebook group on Saturday evening that he had sent a letter to Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow and others asking that they try harder to avoid inconveniencing his constituents. He wrote that DPW and utilities’ communication about their work projects on city streets “have lacked timeliness and consistency” and asked to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.

Sinkholes have plagued his district all year, with a massive one emerging in April that was fixed only this past month, and another that appeared right by Mt. Vernon’s Washington Monument only a couple weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t another sinkhole or a water main break that led Costello to write his critical letter. Instead, he said there was a night last week when allegedly unannounced utility work messed with the valet parking for two events on Mt. Vernon Place. “DPW set up a project there with little to no warning, and this resulted in a massive inconvenience for the event’s organizers,” he wrote. “I do not appreciate getting tagged twelve times on social media in situations like this – because I believe the City can easily avoid them through better communication.”

Costello said he wants to meet with DPW to get a full list of all utility projects by the city and BGE, deadlines for each and contact info for the appropriate parties. He also wrote that he wants to know how the city can prevent further infrastructure failures from happening – a tall order in a place with an apparently collapsing foundation and a century-old sewer system.

On Facebook, Costello’s constituents seemed happy, if not weary a bit weary. “Thank you so much for advocating for Mount Vernon,” wrote Michael Stevens. “The logistics of this ‘hood are starting to outweigh my love of it.” A handful of others wrote similar appreciative messages.

Jeffrey Raymond, DPW’s chief of communications and community affairs, said in a statement that “we understand the frustration that Councilman Costello and his constituents feel in regards to the multiple infrastructure issues with which they and we are having to contend. Emergencies such as the street collapses downtown are particularly trying because they put us in reactive mode until we can get them stabilized and repaired. This multiplies the inconvenience and frustration.”

Raymond added: “DPW will continue to work with the Councilman, community leaders, commercial property owners and businesses to make sure we minimize the disruptions from our projects – both planned and emergencies. And we will sit down with Councilman Costello to review in detail his concerns about coordinating our future projects and rebuilding the City’s infrastructure so that it is stable, safe, and useful for many decades to come.”

Councilman Costello said he still needs to set up a time to speak with city officials and BGE personnel.

Here’s a full copy of his letter:

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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