Intercom tamperers
may face discipline

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said employees who are found to jam intercoms on rail cars could face discipline.

After last week’s Metro board meeting, Sarles said that “if in the future, employees are found” to be jamming the intercoms they “will face disciplinary action.”

The move comes after the transit agency received tips that employees were sticking objects into the intercoms, which allow passengers to communicate with the train operator in an emergency, causing the devices not to work.

Operators had jammed intercoms on some of the 2000, 3000 and 5000 rail car series after they received new digital radios that created interference that affected the intercom. Operators found the noise “a nuisance,” according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Metro acknowledged this month that it had known since at least 2009 of some problems with the intercom system but had not addressed the issue. The situation came to light in June when riders were unable to reach the train operator over the intercom after a fight broke out on a Red Line train.

— Dana Hedgpeth

Leggett to appeal PSC’s Pepco decision

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said Tuesday that he would appeal a decision by the Maryland Public Service Commission to grant Pepco a $27.9 million rate increase and a new surcharge to bolster the electric grid, calling the proposed hikes “premature and unwise.”

The PSC approved the increase three weeks ago, giving Pepco less than half the $60.8 million boost it initially sought. The new rate will add roughly $2.41 per month to the average residential customer bill. The commission also gave clearance for a surcharge — starting at 6 cents per month in 2014 for the average homeowner and rising to as much as 27 cents per month in 2016 — to improve the reliability of the grid.

Leggett said he had asked the county attorney to appeal the increases in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

“I believe that Pepco has made improvements in their communications, infrastructure, and emergency response systems since last summer’s ‘Derecho’ storm. However, just how improved these ­changes are have not yet been seriously tested,” said Leggett, who also called the grid surcharge “troubling” and a “terrible precedent.”

In response to Leggett’s statement, Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel said: “Maryland law provides the right of appeal from Public Service Commission decisions. As a party to the proceeding, Montgomery County may exercise its right to appeal the commission’s decision. Pepco will fully participate in the appellate process.”

— Ben Pershing