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Water Bills To Increase 9 Percent To Finance Infrastructure Repairs & Sewage Lines

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Starting Tuesday, people living in Baltimore City will start digging a little deeper into their pockets to pay for water.

Alex DeMetrick has more on the Board of Estimates’ controversial decision to approve a rate increase.

It’s more than just Baltimore residents. Many people in surrounding counties are on the city’s water system, and their bills are about to go up by 9 percent.

When large underground lines fail, streets become instant rivers. And those failures are an expensive issue for Baltimore’s water system, parts of which are nearly 100 years old.

“Our water infrastructure has been crumbling beneath out feet and cannot be ignored,” said Rudy Chow, Baltimore Department of Public Works.

So Baltimore’s DPW asked the Board of Estimates to increase customers’ bills by nine percent to finance a billion dollars in repairs and upgrades.

For the average family of four, which currently pays more than $1,170 a year for water, 9 percent more will increase the bill to $1,276–or $97 more a year.

For some who attended the hearing, that’s too much for a department that’s been at the center of numerous billing errors.

“That department is asking for an increase in rates. So they can mismanage more of our money? I don’t think so,” said Steve Wainwright, of Baltimore.

“This is getting ridiculous. This is like a no-win situation. They nickle and dime you,” said  Joe Collins, Baltimore.

The city is raising the rates in part because it is under federal orders to upgrade not only water infrastructure but sewage lines as well.

“As mayor I do not have the luxury of passing the buck when faced with tough choices,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

But over the objections of two members, the board approved the rate hike.

The board also passed increases for city water used in  Howard, Anne Arundel and Carroll Counties.

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