BALTIMORE (WMAR) — On Thursday, the Baltimore City Council Committee on Taxation, Finance and Economic Development (TFED) voted to advance the Water Accountability and Equity Act.
Supporters say the legislation is a Water-for-All Affordability type program that will also include the creation of the Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals.
The bill was introduced in December 2018, and has had a public hearing and two work sessions while in committee.
“Everywhere I go in Baltimore, the high cost of water tops the list of concerns among residents,” said City Council President Scott. “Building a more accountable and equitable water system is of the utmost importance. We have an opportunity to do that with this legislation.”
One part of the legislation would cap water bills for low-income households based on their income.
Baltimore City's Department of Public Works currently offers BH20 Assists Programs, which critics say doesn't make water bills more affordable for 30 percent of City households making less than $25,000.00 a year.
The City Council President’s Office reportedly compared the BH2O Assists and the Water-for-All affordability program and estimated the cost to be $19 million less over five years and serve an additional 3,000 people.
Then there's the newly proposed independent office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals. Their purpose would be to handle anything from customer billing disputes to finding leaks, and even enrolling customers into assistance programs.
Last month, DPW announced a new appeals process through the City’s Environmental Control Board, but Water-for-All advocates say the regulations give DPW Director Rudy Chow final say rather than a process of independent decision making.
The bill goes to a second of three readings at the October 28th City Council meeting.