Since curbside garbage collection was cut to one day a week in Baltimore 10 years ago, a city garbage truck has made its way to The Village of Cross Keys for an extra weekly pick-up.
In recent years, that special service was performed by the Department of Public Works’ Marine Unit trash operation based in Canton.
In addition to picking up harbor debris and so-called “gateway” trash from roadside cans, a Marine Unit truck traveled to 5100 Falls Road every Monday to collect garbage from townhouses, single-family houses and mid-rise condos at the gated community.
The special service cost the city about $10,000 a year, “amounting to at least $100,000 over the 10-year period,” Isabel Mercedes Cumming, chief of the Office of the Inspector General, said in a report released today.
Cumming said her investigators could not determine who at DPW originally authorized the extra service, which has gone on for a decade “without the authorization of the Board of Estimates and without informing the current director,” Rudy Chow.
DPW immediately discontinued the extra-day service when it was informed of the OIG’s investigation, according to deputy DPW director Matthew Garbark.
Shades of the Ritz Carlton
Today’s report comes on the heels of another embarrassing “oversight” by DPW.
Last month, it was revealed that the Ritz Carlton Residences have not gotten a water bill from DPW for the last 12 years. The exclusive waterfront complex in South Baltimore owes $2.3 million, DPW now says.
Describing himself as “outraged” and blaming prior administrations, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young ordered an audit of the water billing system.
The audit will be publicly released, Young promised, but so far no completion date has been announced by the mayor’s office.
Nothing on Record
In the case of Cross Keys, management at the village told Cumming that they requested additional garbage service at a meeting with DPW officials in 2009.
“There was no paperwork submitted or a formal agreement signed,” today’s report noted. “Solid Waste just agreed [to] the additional day of service.” No documentation was ever found by investigators to indicate that Cross Keys paid the city for the supplemental service.
The extra weekly collection was performed on Mondays by DPW’s Marine Unit, which normally handles garbage left in street cans around the harbor and elsewhere in the city.
The manager of the unit told the OIG that she was not aware that Solid Waste was making Wednesday garbage pickups. She said she instead “assumed the Northwest Quadrant was only servicing the Village of Cross Keys for recycling on Fridays.”
Cross Keys was built in the 1960s by the Rouse Company as a forerunner to its planned town of Columbia. The village has been the home of a number of prominent citizens, including Oprah Winfrey, who lived there in the late 1970s and early 1980s when she worked for WJZ-TV.
In 2012, the retail center and common land was purchased by Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., a New York investment firm that also owns Harborplace.