Crackdown planned on water bills : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Crackdown planned on water bills City to cut off delinquents in Dec. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By M. Dion Thompson Sun Staff Originally published Sep 29 2000 Over the past eight years, Baltimore's water customers have racked up $9 million in unpaid bills without having to worry about their water being shut off.

Those days are coming to an end. Yesterday, Mayor Martin O'Malley announced that starting in December, the city will turn off the water to customers who are at least six months behind in their payments and owe more than $500.

"There is no such thing as free water," O'Malley said. "The time when we could look the other way and eat the revenue is past."

The decision reverses a long-standing policy that resulted in millions of dollars of lost revenue. Nearly 6,000 delinquent accounts - residents and businesses in Baltimore and some of the surrounding counties - owe the city for unpaid water and sewer bills.

O'Malley said he did not know why the no shut-off policy, begun in 1992, went into effect. "We'll assume it was compassion," he said.

Under the new policy, the city will shut off water to delinquent clients in Baltimore and northern Anne Arundel County. Baltimore County will pay the city for delinquent accounts there, then use its resources to recover the loss.

More than 1.8 million people in metropolitan Baltimore depend on the city's water system, and many began receiving notices this week about the policy change.

City officials estimate that the new policy could bring Baltimore an additional $1.6 million a year, though that money cannot be used to help cash-strapped Baltimore contend with its projected deficits.

The city collects about $63 million a year in water-use fees. That money, and $91.5 million from sewer usage fees, goes to separate funds set up in the Bureau of Water and Waste Water for improvements, maintenance and operation of the city's water and sewer system. This year, the city raised water rates by 19 percent and sewer rates by 15 percent


-- Martin Thompson (, September 29, 2000

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