Wednesday’s meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for 4C was a quicker meeting with a shorter than usual agenda. Highlights were the PEPCO VP getting a frosty reception from residents and commissioners, a Taylor Street developer who made nice with neighbors and a lengthy discussion on next year’s budget.
ANC 4C has $16,745.22 savings and $12,839.93 checking. Commissioner Timothy Jones asked Commissioner Crowley (Treasurer) if bank service charges have been resolved. Crowley said, yes… they still have them at $10-15 a month. Chair Vann-Di Galloway said it's because the ANC has to have front and back copies of any checks they write, and there’s a fee for that. Crowley said the fees are discounted by $3-4 a month compared to normal accounts.
During the Community Comment period, Leonardo Dorcett got up to speak about the need for a crossing guard at Georgia and Kansas Avenues. “What is the ANC going to do?” he asked He said he's spoken to Councilmember Todd’s office, the Mayor's office and ANC 4C. "Someone is going to get hit," he said. He also suggested a speeding camera at the intersection, saying there have been many accidents in the past. (Watch the Petworth News Video about Mr. Dorcett.)
Commissioner (and Vice Chair) Zach Teutsch talked about the student struck by a car at Powell, saying it’s been an ongoing safety issue. Residents have been concerned about the issue for a long time, and he said the goal is to make the 1300 block of Upshur better for drivers and pedestrians. “Seems like it's the month of transportation issues,” he said. He mentioned there is a meeting on December 16th at 5:30pm at the corner of Taylor and Arkansas to discuss pedestrian issues. He also mentioned that residents along the 1300 block of Taylor have reached the petition threshold to get calming traffic measures, and there is a meeting with DDOT planned for the 17th.
Commissioner Galloway mentioned the upcoming PSA 404/407 meeting at 801 Shepherd St on December 17th at 7pm. (If you’re concerned about crime, I suggest you try to attend. I’ll put out a notice beforehand.)
Commissioner Michael Halpern mentioned that DDOT now does not plan to advance further with its proposal regarding a new bus line along 16th that would cut down Arkansas Avenue.
Khalil Thompson from Mayor Bowser’s office spoke about the barricade situation that had occurred earlier that day on Olgelthorpe, saying it had been peacefully resolved.
Mr. Thompson mentioned that the previous Saturday was the 14th Street tree box cleaning. He said that apparently, many business owners didn't know it was their responsibility to maintain the tree boxes in front of their businesses. While they had plenty of rakes and mulch, there is more to be done and they plan to be back again to complete the work. He mentioned the issues on the 1300 block of Upshur Street in front of Powell, and said they were working with the school on traffic safety and are looking to determine a time for community meeting next week (hoping to be 4pm on the 17th). Commissioner Jones asked about the Safe Routes program, and Mr. Thompson said they would look to bring it back at the school.
Then Mike Crisci, the developer of 307 Taylor St (BZA Application #19162) gave an update on their special exception request for their conversion of a single-family home to 3-unit apartment building. There’s been an ongoing negotiation with neighbors about the design of the building, and they’ve finally come to an agreement. Mr. Crisci said they’ve made concessions with neighbors (such as keeping the existing porch, removing the proposed roof deck, agreeing on the type of materials for the siding, etc.) He thanked the neighbors, particularly Katie, for their work.
Katie said they worked with the developer to rescale the project to something the neighbors would be comfortable with, and now support the new plan. The ANC approved the special exception.
Mr. Darrell Powe from the DC Department of Behavioral Health got up to do a quick introduction. They’re planning on coming back to present more information about what their department does at a future meeting, but discussed their prevention, intervention and treatment services for all residents with mental and/or substance use disorders. He spoke about free services available for people suffering from mental health / substance abuse issues at their NY Avenue location ("the Ark") 75 P Street NE.
Commissioner Maria Barry spoke about Green Door, which assists with DBH issues (she’s their Chief Development Officer).
Then Marc Battle, PEPCO regional vice president, came up to talk about the proposed purchase of PEPCO by Exelon and discuss the ANC’s concerns. Mr. Battle said they have improved the original proposal and addressed the ANC's issues. He said a majority of community issues related to rates and renewability.
This was a rather lengthy discussion. Mr. Battle said that Exelon is proposing a $25.6 million fund to offset residential rate increases, expiring in March 2019. He said the last rate increase was March 2014, and that it would mean a five-year freeze of rates. Then he clarified that it’s not really a freeze, there will still be rate increases, but instead the $25.6 million fund is actually a credit to cover increases. He also mentioned additional concessions, including a $14 million upfront credit to DC residents, along with a $16 million fund for long-term assistance. He said that after the acquisition of PEPCO, they will meet reliability standards, and will commit to exceed the standards set by the Public Service Commission (PSC). “There will be a lower number of outages and they'll be shorter,” he said.
Regarding the rates, he said that PEPCO only keeps 1/5 of bill, the rest are surcharges and supplier side costs. He added that sustainability goals will be met with solar and other renewable energy. He also mentioned a $ 2.5 million investment for public needs, such as the University of the District of Columbia. He said they have made a 500% increase in the customer investment fund, $78 million total (compared to the original proposal). Exelon has also committed to not go below $19 million in charitable donations over the next 10 years.
Chair Galloway then invited a resident to come up and provide “the other side.” Basav Sen, a member of the Green Neighbors group, said the new agreement does not substantively improve the earlier rejected proposal.
“It’s not about a little money here or there," Mr. Sen said, "But a fundamental conflict of interest between Exelon and what DC needs from its utility.” He said Exelon is the largest nuclear power generator in the country, and has an incentive to sell power at the highest possible rate, while PEPCO must purchase at the lowest possible rate. He said the PSC already rejected the acquisition, and they should let the rejection stand.
Mr. Sen added that regarding rates, while $25.6 million for cumulative rate increases will be credited, any amount of rate increase that exceed the gap of $25.6M before March 2019 will need to be paid back at a 5% rate of interest.
He added that there was an ongoing concern about jobs for DC residents, as PEPCO’s commitment to being “net job positive” until 2018 is a slim commitment (“Three more employees would be considered positive,” he said). Regarding solar sellbacks (when homeowners with solar panels sell power back to the grid), he said Exelon would discontinue that practice in DC (and had been actively lobbying against it across the country).
Commissioner Halpern asked Mr. Battle about the GSA. “I’m curious how GSA was involved but didn't take a position [on the acquisition],” he said. “GSA said the accelerated timeline required for reviewing the proposal meant they couldn't come up with consensus view on the acquisition. Why not wait for GSA? What has the communication been with them?”
Mr. Battle replied that the “GSA had it's reasons for not participating, all other parties had the opportunity to do so. Some did, some did not.” He added that he was not aware of any communications that would have led to GSA not participating.
Halpern asked about solar sellbacks. Mr. Battle said, “Nothing in the merger has anything to do with net metering [solar sellbacks]”. He said he took issue with the accusation by Mr. Sen. He said there was a $3.5 million set aside to fund renewable energy in DC. He also said Exelon will buy power for the lowest bid on the wholesale market.
Commissioner Halpern then asked, “Will Exelon then not oppose sellbacks?”
Mr. Battle replied, “We have supported renewables, so it's not an issue.”
Commissioner Zach Teutsch asked, “So are you lobbying for it or against it?”
Mr. Battle responded that, “We work closely with PSC and customers on supporting net metering.
We’re not getting out of supporting it.”
Teutsch said, “I thought I was clear. Did Exelon lobby on this position?”
“On tax credit or what are we talking about?” Mr. Battle responded. “There has been no lobbying by Exelon in DC on this issue.”
“What about other places?” Teutsch asked.
“We operate in 48 states and I can't speak to that. Net metering is here in DC. There is no incentive to oppose net metering in DC,” responded Mr. Battle.
Mr. Sen then said “Exelon does have a track record of aggressively lobbying against incentives for wind/solar and net metering in various states across the country, directly and through the Edison Electric Institute.” He added that Exelon was unwilling to make a legally binding agreement to not lobby against it in DC.
Commissioner Jones said, “I understand PEPCO shareholders may be cashed out and not receive stock in merged company?”
“To my knowledge, there is nothing that prevents someone who is cashed out to purchased Exelon stock,” responded Mr. Battle.
“That wasn't my question,” said Jones. “So their stock isn't rolling over to new company?”
“I can't speak to the details of why the offer was structured that way, but people who are cashed out can buy Exelon stock after the merger,” Mr. Battle said.
Commissioner Taalib-Din Uqdah asked, “Is this an acquisition or merger?”
“It is legally an acquisition,” said Mr. Battle. “Exelon is buying the stock of PEPCO holdings. Existing PEPCO energy companies will continue to sit where they are.”
Uqdah then said, “Whenever these presentations are made, we never see an Exelon executive, always PEPCO. You're making promises you can't keep. My preference is that this process be extended so the public can hear from Exelon.”
Mr. Battle responded, “I speak to legally binding commitments by Exelon and PEPCO, so I can speak to their commitments held to by the PSC.”
“My other concern is that the initial agreement included $14 million for a one-time direct bill credit [$50-$57 per customer],” said Uqdah. “Now that will only go to residential rate payers. Why not business customers?” he asked.
“I’d have to go back and see the original resolution to see if it was all customers not just residential,” responded Mr. Battle. “There's quite a bit that helps meet commercial customer needs, especially reliability. Enhanced reliability is important to commercial companies. I would have to check on original allocation.”
Commissioner Halpern asked, “Would Exelon PEPCO be willing to commit to releasing the amount and names sent from Edison Electric Institute for political donations? That kind of transparency is important.”
Another resident stated that Exelon stands to make $100 million a year, and was offering only small amounts back to city. Mr. Battle responded that the $100M is the maximum they're authorized to earn. PEPCO has not earned its authorized rate of return in 15 years.
Mr. Sen then said, “This goes to the crux of the merger: Exelon’s nuclear business is struggling. With falling gas and cheap wind energy, their production isn't competitive, so they need a stable cash flow. That's why they're buying PEPCO.”
After that, the ANC voted to oppose the PEPCO acquisition by Exelon unanimously.
Next up was a discussion on the ANC’s 2016 “fiscal year spending plan” (aka budget). Apparently Commissioner Crowley created a draft budget, while Commissioner Uqdah created his own draft budget and both were up for discussion.
Commissioner Hayworth said that presenting the budget should kick off a 30-day public comment period, so we need to decide which we're putting forward. Commissioner Uqdah disagreed, saying, “No, we can distribute and vote on the budget at the same meeting. That's why it's on this meeting, so we can forward to Council and ANC office.” He said his version of the budget was designed to meet the need to move more money from savings to their operating budget, while leaving two-thirds for a "rainy day fund."
Commissioner Elisa Irwin asked, regarding the budget, “If we're getting stuff printed and copied, what are ‘business supplies’?” Crowley listed off things like pens, paper, paper clips, envelopes, etc.
Ultimately, after some lengthy back and forth, they decided to use Crowley’s budget, with a change. They will slightly reduce the amount of money allocated for grants and make $5,000 available for Commissioners to spend in their SMDs for various projects. (It sounds interesting, but there are no details as yet for how this new SMD project fund works or the oversight on it. More to come next year, I’m sure.)
The ANC also approved a letter of reconsideration about the Department of General Services ignoring the ANC regarding special exceptions at Roosevelt High School. (They’re really not happy with DGS, who went ahead and did work not approved by the ANC and has been ignoring 4C since then, so I’m told.)
Commissioner Uqdah then made a motion to align their by-laws to be consistent with the DC Municipal Regulations, which requires all copies of their by-laws and any amendments to be sent to the Council in 30 days. (Minor procedural issue here, the ANC previously thought they had 7 days to submit.) This was approved.
Commissioner Hayworth then mentioned the upcoming City Council Roundtable and the ANC “great weight” proposal on December 16th. Councilmember Anita Bonds has an upcoming bill about ANCs, redefining "great weight,” which describes what ANCs can do. Commissioner Hayworth has written testimony “to be on the record to be in favor of making great weight actually mean something. Many agencies don't give enough credence to ANC letters. ANCs need to be listened to, need ‘equal weight’,” he said. Commissioner Irwin will represent the ANC at the meeting.
Commissioner Uqdah then made a motion to have the ANC spend $300 to purchase 50 signs that will be distributed around the ANC area, notifying residents about upcoming ANC meetings. Uqdah said the ANC is required to use two forms for notices of a meeting to the public. Each SMD will get two signs, and then the rest will go at public areas and businesses around the ANC. Approved.
Jordan Rummel, the new communications specialist for Councilmember Todd, got up to speak quickly about what Todd has been working on. He said CM Todd was in communication with MPD all day about the barricade situation, posting updates for residents to Facebook and Twitter.
Commissioner Irwin ended the meeting by publicly thanking the library director for putting signs up in the library that the ANC meeting is downstairs.
That’s it. Next month are officer elections for ANC 4C. Commissioner Crowley stated she will NOT be running for Treasurer again (she’ll still be a commissioner, however), so look for a shuffle in 4C officers in January.
Gallery of pictures from the meeting: