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63 city workers to be laid off once contractor takes over water billing, meter reading

DPW worker who stole water meters gets 5-year sentence
Posted at 11:19 AM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-22 15:02:26-05

BALTIMORE — Some people in Baltimore City and Baltimore County have not gotten a water bill for months ad that has led to some major changes.

Mayor Jack Young announced he wants to outsource installation and maintenance to improve accuracy and save money but it means dozens of city employees would lose their jobs.

The city has proposed a contract with Itron, a third party vendor, who would take over meter reading, small meter installation, and maintenance in Baltimore City and County.

“Our customers deserve accurate and timely water bills,” said Young. "The fact that this continues to be an issue even after we invested in automated meters means that we must take further action to address the problem."

The move comes even after the city invested $150 million in automated meters that were aimed to minimize the need for readings. That effort ended up being unsuccessful, as problems with maintenance, installation, and responsiveness, continued.

"Outsourcing meter reading and small meter installation and maintenance to a vendor with a wealth of expertise in this area will not only increase revenue but also reduce operational costs creating savings for our customers," said Young.

RELATED: Baltimore County hiring outside vendor to get water bills back on track

The city estimates the deal with Itron would save $50 million throughout the five-year contract, by eliminating positions and laying off 63 meter operations employees.

The city says the savings would be redirected to the new Water Accountability and Equity Act, which has been delayed until the end of the State of Emergency.

The president of the City Union of Baltimore said they were blindsided by the decision and questions how this can be better for customers as the city prepares to raise water rates by 10 percent this month.

Rianna Eckel of the Food and Water Action also questions the timing.

"The biggest concern is that Jack Young is at this point a lameduck mayor. He going to be out of office in a few months and this is a really huge decision to be making right before he leaves office with absolutely no opportunity for public input," said Eckel.

But Garbark said that even with years of employee training, issues have become so significant that the time was now.

"We have acknowledgments of training and other things, we do on the job shadowing in other areas and the issues just have not gone away," he said.

The contract was approved by the Baltimore County Council on Monday but it still needs to be approved by the Baltimore City Board of Estimates.