Downtown Property Owners are Urged to Upgrade Utilities

Published: August 24, 2020

CUMBERLAND — City officials are urging the owners of properties on the downtown mall to take advantage of available utility upgrades when renovations get underway.

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the City Council were given an update Tuesday on the $9.6 million Baltimore Street Renovation Project expected to get underway next year. The project includes reinstalling Baltimore Street through the downtown pedestrian mall.

Paul Kelly, outgoing executive director of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., said the project plans are at the 90% completion stage. One of the main reasons behind the project is a need to replace aging below-ground utilities, in particular water service, including a fire suppression system and upgraded fiber optic cable.

Properties owners will have new service available to them during the construction process, according to Kelly. However, owners must be responsible for attaching their service to the source taps.

“What a lot of folks are talking about is fiber access and enhanced services for sprinklers,” Kelly said. “The plans are such that there would be a water pipe going to the foundation of every building fronting Baltimore Street that needed one so that they could have enhanced sprinkler services. So if they are going to develop their second floor they could have that water source at their foundation so down the road they could hook into it and develop their second floor.”

Bobby Smith, city engineer, said basic water and sewer service will not be impacted but fire sprinkler systems will need to be addressed.

“It is our intention to make fire suppression and fiber available to the front of each building,” said Smith. “Owners can receive an upgrade for water service needs. For fiber, I have contacted Maryland broadband and one of the questions is how many service lines do you need? There are a lot of variables and things we need to know ahead of time. We want to do this now so we don’t have to be tearing up the roadway again in at a future date.”

Kelly added, “We also expect to have the fiber loop through the downtown up and running. With that, we would have a fiber line running to the foundation of each building so if they choose down the road to select an ISP (internet service provider) they could easily access the fiber and internet.”

Morriss said, “I encourage all the building owners to make that decision and contact (city engineering) or the (Downtown Development Commission) so they can work with the property owners to make the arrangements.”

Smith said the more information the contractors have, the easier the process will be.

Jeff Rhodes, city administrator, said exact cost figures for the sprinkler water supply is difficult to estimate.

“There are a lot of variables,” said Rhodes. “In 2016, we ran a 4-inch fire line in a building downtown and our portion of the cost was $12,500 but that involved digging up the street and repairing the street. We will have the street exposed as a result of the project, which provides an opportunity for a savings.”

Officials said owners that already have fire sprinkler systems in place would not be impacted unless they need an upgrade.

“If they need a better grade of service it’s better to come off the 24-inch line on Baltimore Street and it is a minimal cost now if they would do that,” said Smith.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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