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The Dripby Mark Reutter6:53 amSep 15, 20230

Baltimore Housing Authority says it owes much less in unpaid water bills

Agency disputes charges disclosed in report earlier this week by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming

Above: The Perkins Homes public housing complex in Baltimore. (HABC Facebook)

In response to a report issued by Baltimore’s Inspector General, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City says it owes the city “significantly less” – $1.02 million rather than nearly $8 million – in unpaid water bills.

HABC, which manages 7,000 public housing units in the city, came up with that figure based on a two-page internal spreadsheet that it emailed to reporters after it denounced the IG report with this statement:

”It is irresponsible to issue a public report without having all the facts and information and conducting due diligence.”

Yesterday IG Isabel Mercedes Cumming noted that her office “does not have the authority to resolve water bill balance disputes or make account adjustments on behalf of the Department of Public Works,” which calculates customer bills.

Cumming included further documentation of HABC’s delinquent accounts, including a current water bill of $7,907,512.13 from DPW, most of which stems from years of underpayment by HABC.

Total amount that DPW says the Housing Authority owes to Baltimore City in delinquent water bills. (OIG Report)

The cumulative amount that DPW says the Housing Authority owed as of July 2023. (OIG Report)

Years of Disputed Bills

HABC President and CEO Janet Abrahams said the agency has paid over $50 million in water bills since January 2017, but during this period it “uncovered several inaccurate billings” and has “worked for many years to correct these errors.”

HABC did not pay the disputed charges, leading to arrears that fluctuated between $6 million and $16 million since 2020, according to the OIG report.

Cumming said her office reviewed the HABC spreadsheets when preparing its report and found they lacked sufficient documentation.

At the same time, DPW’s records of water used by more than 1,200 HABC subaccounts were riddled with discrepancies, thr report found.

DPW Interim Director Richard Luna said the agency will perform an audit of HABC properties, including “unallocated subcredits residing within the master account framework,” by December 1.

He and Abrahams said they hope to resolve their differences.

But Abrahams warned that, among other issues, HABC will dispute $493,325 in water charges it says were improperly billed by DPW to Perkins Homes after the housing project was demolished.

The IG addressed this matter in her report by noting:

”All three accounts for 1601 East Pratt Street [Perkins Homes] now carry a zero-dollar balance due to a February 2023 settlement agreement between HABC and DPW in which HABC agreed to pay $764,000 and the city abated the remainder of the $2,575,668.60 bill.”

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