BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City and county officials responded to a report released Monday about long-standing issues with the joint water system.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. addressed how each jurisdiction is working together to resolve the issues that have plagued the water bill system for decades.
A report released by the joint offices of the Inspector General highlighted a number of issues with the water system, including thousands of digital meters in the city and county that are not fully functional and more than 8,000 open tickets pertaining to county water accounts that were not addressed by the city.
The report also highlighted that the city and county awarded $133 million in contracts since 2011 to enhance the water system, but the problems continue. Both jurisdictions are losing millions of dollars on water and sewer issues.
“As a former member of the city council, I’ve often said that water billing issues — from missing bills from inaccurate bills or overcharging or bills –was the number one complaint that I got from constituents,” Scott said Monday.
“We will fix this system. This is a top priority. We will not continue to have this conversation about a broken water system that we’ve had for at least the 36 years that I’ve been alive,” he added.
“This report’s findings reinforce much of what I’ve already encountered and have taken steps to address during my two years on the job. In fact, since taking office we’ve been working aggressively to begin to address the systemic issues that date back not only years, but date back decades,” Olszewski said.
City Comptroller Bill Henry released a statement Monday evening saying the investigation “provided many key details about a problem which many of us have been aware of for years: our water billing system is not properly serving all of its customers”:
“As a member of the City Council, my staff was constantly trying to help residents who just did not understand why, month after month, their bill did not properly reflect their actual usage. As Comptroller, I now have the power to examine these issues more closely, and share the results with the public at-large.
“Investigations are meant to uncover wrongdoing or fraud. Good performance auditing also uncovers inefficiencies and provides recommendations for a better approach. As such, I have directed the City Auditor to do a performance audit of our water billing operations as part of the Department’s 2021 Audit Plan.
“While we have yet to identify exactly why our system chronically issues inconsistent and erroneous bills, we will be getting the answer to that question.”