Fuses were short at a Montgomery County Council hearing where Pepco's Tom Graham got a grilling from a very hot-under-the-collar Roger Berliner. Council member Berliner, who serves Bethesda told Graham it wasn't personal as he blasted the Pepco executive.
"My constituents are soooo tired of the unreliability of Pepco's system."
Berliner lost power. So did Council member Nancy Navarro, who serves Eastern Montgomery County. Navarro said managing without power was one thing. Trying to get accurate information was another.
"When I called Pepco to report my power was out, I was told it would be restored September 15th, at 3 a.m."
Her colleague Council member Duchy Trachtenberg joked "After the primary!"
Berlin chimed in "But only if you win!"
But things got serious as Berlin continued to grill Graham.
"You ought to have the best delivery system money can buy! And in the computer age in which reliability of service is sooo important, we have a very unreliable system!"
And then it got political as Berliner continued, "If Montgomery County is the engine of the state, and that engine is basically without power, we can't do our job!"
Graham responded, "Governor (Martin) O'Malley has expressed that to me a couple of times this week."
Berliner shot back, "I would think so."
During the meeting, Pepco officials said customers could start getting estimates of when they could expect to see their power restored by calling 1-877-PEPCO-62.
Afterwards, Graham was asked to explain why Pepco didn't bury power lines. Wouldn't that avoid the kind of damage seen after as storm like Sunday's with its high winds and downed trees? Graham said burying lines could add to headaches.
"If you have an overhead circuit, and you go outside and look, you can see the tree came down, you can see whatever the damage is. You can't see underground. So you have to locate it (the outage), you have to dig, sometimes you have to rebuild conduit---so there's a lot more effort involved in an underground circuit." And Graham says, that could make for even more delays when it comes to getting the power back on.
Still, Montgomery County officials are looking for more solutions. Council member Berliner says he's drafting a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission asking it to examine Pepco's performance and push for improvements.