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The Dripby Brew Editors6:30 amMay 18, 20110

City water, sewer rates expected to jump 9 percent

UPDATE: As expected, the Board of Estimates today approved a 9 percent hike in city water and sewer rates, effective tomorrow. Voting for the increase was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her two appointees, City Solicitor George Nilson and Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx Jr. City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voted against the increase, and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young abstained, according to the mayor’s press office.

The typical Baltimore household will see their water and sewer bills rise to more than $1,000 a year with the expected approval today of a 9 percent hike by the city Board of Estimates.

The planned rate jump will increase the annual water and sewer bill for the typical family of four from $984 to $1,073, according to data released by the city’s Department of Public Works. The city bills customers quarterly.

The city says the increase is necessary to fund repairs for aging infrastructure and to comply with federal mandates requiring major sewer system improvements and better filtration of tap water from city reservoirs. The proposed rate increase is effective tomorrow, May 19.

This will be the fourth rate increase in the last four years, which has pushed up residential water and sewer bills by more than one-third since 2008. (Rates were increased 4 percent in 2008, 9 percent in 2009 and 9 percent in 2010.)

Under the expected new rates, the annual cost for 320 gallons of water per day – typical household usage – will be $457.56, according to the DPW. The annual wastewaste/sewer cost will be $615.28.

Baltimore County, which is dependent on city water, is expected to increase its rates by a similar amount. Higher rates are expected in Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll County, which also use water supplied by the city.

The higher cost of water comes at a time of rising complaints that the city’s reliance on estimating water usage, rather than actually reading the meter, was leading to unfairly high bills.

A City Council bill requiring the DPW to read a water meter before billing a residential customer passed second reader on Monday and is expected to move to third and final reader shortly.

Councilman Mary Pat Clarke, who sponsored the legislation, said she and her colleagues started receiving an unusually large number of complaints about inaccurate water bills last summer.

She said an analysis of the complaints found that estimated bills were the common factor. In one extreme case, a Waverly resident received a $11,000 bill that was later corrected to $176.

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