Baltimore Co.asks 20% rise in water bills Request to city would increase charges in April.

February 07, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons and Larry Carson

Water bills in Baltimore County would increase by an average of $15 to $20 a year beginning in April if a requested surcharge is approved, the county public works director said.

The director, Gene L. Neff, said yesterday that he has asked his Baltimore counterpart, George G. Balog, to add 20 percent to all county metered water bills after April 1.

Mr. Balog said the request still must be publicized and approved by the city Board of Estimates, but Mr. Neff said he expected it to pass.

"We've discussed this with the city, and they're all in agreement with the timetable. . . . They recognize that we've got to have revenue," he said.

The surcharge would be "no more than $5 a quarter on the average bill," he said.

While this money would increase the county's contribution to the water fund, the request for the surcharge doesn't mean the county has given up its fight with the city over water-use charges, Baltimore County Attorney H. Emslie Parks said.

Last August, an arbitration panel ruled against the county in a 13-year-old dispute about the method of charging for water from the city-run metropolitan system.

The county was ordered to pay $10.2 million, plus interest, into the water fund.

That decision was upheld last month by a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge, but Mr. Parks said the county is awaiting a written order from the judge before deciding whether to appeal further.

Under the arbitration board's ruling, retroactive to July 1983, the county must pay for water by a formula that takes into ac

count the increased costs of treating water at times of high use, not merely the volume used, Mr. Neff said.

The dispute, sparked by a consultant's analysis of the system under which the county is to pay the city's costs in supplying water to suburban customers, came to a head in 1987, when former Mayor Clarence Du Burns filed suit against the county to force it to agree to arbitration.

The actual arbitration process took several more years to complete.

In appealing the Circuit Court ruling in September 1991, County Executive Roger B. Hayden called the city's claims "retroactive rate-making," and county officials ridiculed the initial judgment that ordered the county to pay the entire amount within 60 days.

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