- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Potomac Electric Power Co. officials said yesterday they are trying to reimburse businesses and residents affected by last weeks four-day blackout in Georgetown.
"The terminology is that we are trying to put them back to where they would be if this incident did not happen," said John Meara, Pepco claims manager.
Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin said the initial fault was in a low-voltage wire at the corner of 30th and M streets NW that burned into the high-voltage cables, creating more damage to secondary systems. The company is still analyzing the wire to find the cause of the fault.
Deputy Mayor John Koskinen, Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans and utility company presidents met yesterday to discuss plans for a proposed overhaul of utility underpinnings to begin in about a month. The logistical matters fall under Mr. Koskinens umbrella of duties.
Mr. Koskinen said the citys utilities will replace underground equipment as part of one project, so they dont have to dig up the streets again. Mr. Koskinen said other utilities have been reviewing Pepcos plans and are finalizing their own proposals.
Pepco Chairman John Derrick said there will be minimal outages during the project, which is expected to start in August and take anywhere from two to four years.
Mr. Meara said his department is trying to keep the claims process streamlined for customers. When people call the claim number (202/872-2452), they are assigned a claim number and sent out forms to document their losses.
He said businesses will need to show receipts for product losses, and will be reimbursed for how much they spent for the product, not the retail price. For merchandise, Mr. Meara said this is pretty much a "black and white" area and should only take a few days to process a claim of this matter. Businesses can also make claims for business lost during days they did not open, but those settlements could take longer.
Many high-end stores, such as galleries and antiques stores, occupy M Street NW. Mr. Meara said losses from these businesses are not as easy to calculate.
"For a product loss, its easy. For the other, it may take a little more time," he said. "It certainly is difficult, but it can be done. If you have a loss, we intend to make good on that loss."
Bruce Marine, owner of Cherub Antiques Gallery, said he doesnt know what sort of claim he will file.
"In the antique business, it is hard to say how much you may have lost in a day. Antiques are luxury items. You dont need them like you need food.," Mr. Marine said.
He said that he is sure he lost some business because he was closed on Fathers Day weekend.
Pepco will also consider claims from residents as well. According to Mr. Meara, expenses for items like generators would be covered.
Mr. Meara said Pepco is "self-insured," and has budgeted in losses. There has been no limit set on compensation for the blackout.
Pepco and city officials said the system underneath the Georgetown area is aged, in part, because the neighborhood has no Metro station. Utility companies, in the past, have used Metro construction in a given area as an opportunity to update underground lines while the ground is torn up. Georgetown residents opposed a Metro station more than 30 years ago.
Walter E. Washington was D.C. mayor at that time. Mr. Washington was appointed by President Johnson and approved by the Senate and was the first black mayor in the country. While serving from 1967-78, he secured a $1 billion highway entitlement for the District.
Of that, $300 million was to go to the creation of a Metro station for Georgetown and a Three Sisters Bridge from M Street NW to Virginia. These two projects didnt come to fruition, and the money went into the general Metro budget.
"[Georgetown residents] objected to having strangers coming out of the ground. Some people interpreted that as meaning blacks, but that wasnt it," Mr. Washington said. "Now most of the strangers come above the ground anyway."
He said people in those days were pro-roads and emphatically opposed a Metro stop because it might disrupt life in the area.
"Some people thought they would tear up the area," he said. "There was nowhere the Metro went underground that you didnt have streets torn up. Thereafter you had just wonderful development, [but] there was disruption. You cant make progress without disrupting somehow."
Metro officials said technology in the 1960s and 70s would not have supported the building of the station due to the depth of the river and the sharpness of the turn that was considered to connect to the station to the Pentagon. Officials said they do not know why the option for above-ground rail was not considered.
Karyn Good, executive director of the Georgetown Business and Professional Association, said she has heard no opposition from business owners regarding a Metro station or utility improvements.
Miss Good said a Metro station would help with parking and relieve traffic congestion. She said Pepco has worked with the GBPA to set up a schedule to minimize disruptions from this summers work.
"[The improvements] are absolutely necessary," Miss Good said. "The system has proven to be antiquated, and we want to work with them."

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