BALTIMORE — In Baltimore City the simple need of water has become an emotional issue, and a source of deep stress.
“People hurt just to have water, it’s meaningful to me,” said Mona Lisa Diallo who bought a house last year.
The city recently raised rates nearly 30 percent.
During a hearing Wednesday, members of the Baltimore City Council grilled the department of public works about how 800 accounts may not have been billed properly or at all.
The list of 240 locations that were never billed includes some of the most expensive condos in the city at the Ritz Carlton.
The water meter installed at the Ritz Carlton in 2007 has never been read.
Council President Brandon Scott asked The Mayor’s Chief of Staff for Operations Sheryl Goldstein how this happened.
“One is that the original water meter was installed but consumption accounts were never created in the old billing system and never manually read, like the Ritz,” Goldstein said. “Some accounts were not properly migrated from the old water billing system to the new water billing system.”
Goldstein said they are putting a policy in place that requires a new customer to get proof of a water billing account.
In the interim as they collect information, they can’t guarantee everyone that wasn’t getting billed is finally paying their part.
“There’s no sort of one size fits all response,” Goldstein said. “We’re working with each customer around resolving these challenges.”
“So, we don’t know if everyone’s gotten a bill because every case is different?” Brandon Scott responded.
“I think it’s fair to say not everyone who has a disputed issue is getting a bill because we’re still working those issues out with many of them,” Goldstein said.
Council unanimously passed the water and accountability act that goes into place this summer.
It creates a water affordability program for low income families and an office of the water customer advocate to handle billing mistakes.
Goldstein said until their audit is done, and they can backlog to collect as much money back as possible -- they won't know how much this cost the city.
They hope to have the audit and more answers by May.