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Dumping Allegheny ignores past service

November 22, 2002

Perhaps the Hagerstown City Council's decision to end a 31-year relationship with Allegheny Energy made sense from a financial standpoint.

It's hard to tell because neither the city nor the power company will reveal the details of Allegheny's bid, except to say that the winning supplier, Dominion Energy Marketing, Inc., agreed to provide a performance bond and Allegheny didn't.

That bond is a letter of credit that ensures that the power supplier will pay a certain amount if it can't provide the city power under the terms of the pact. As we say, it may make financial sense, but it ignores all the promises Allegheny has made - and kept - to this community for many years.

When Allegheny combined its Potomac Edison, West Penn Power and Monongahela Power subsidiaries in 1995, it moved it corporate offices from Manhattan to Washington County, making it the only Fortune 500 company to be headquartered here.

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Not only has the company provided generations of county residents with work, it has also encouraged its employees to get involved in a wide variety of volunteer organizations and civic pursuits.

Those include serving on government boards that tackle everything from land use to economic development. It's also lent its executives to the United Way's annual fund drive and the board of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

To get children interested in participating in the Democratic process, the utility was also instrumental in starting a local chapter of Kids Voting.

This concern for the community isn't just a recent development. Way back in 1965, the utility, then known as Potomac Edison, offered to put its headquarters building in downtown Hagerstown if the city would agree to a merger with the Municipal Electric Light Department.

Voters rejected the idea, but PE was willing to take a chance that it could make a success of both the downtown location and the MELP plant, now just an empty hulk on the banks of Antietam Creek.

Would the council have been criticized had it stuck with Allegheny? Probably, but it is a shame that we've reached the time when a company's contributions to the community count for nothing when compared to the bottom line.

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