Baltimore DPW is committed to reducing water meter billing errors

May 22, 2012

A recent article about two former Department of Public Works meter readers did not accurately reflect the proactive steps taken by DPW to reduce water meter billing errors ("City official: Lazy workers faked water meter readings," May 15). The agency's new quality control processes were instrumental in identifying, addressing and resolving the issue by removing the two employees from government service before the reporters' inquiry.

The truth is that when a pattern of errors emerged in December of 2011, the former employees were confronted, and they were quickly removed. In this case, supervisors uncovered the problem and instituted immediate action. We also immediately re-checked the questionable meter reads from the routes assigned to the former employees to ensure accurate reads for our customers.

It is unfortunate that these former employees did not understand the impact of their actions on our residents. However, we are committed to having every customer's water meter physically read and their account billed accurately.

In the past 12 months, DPW has taken several steps to improve service and billing accuracy for customers and to bring an understaffed, out-of-date manual system up to industry standards. In February we added 19 meter inspectors. As a result, meter inspections are now completed within five business days, down from months. Furthermore, we are adding four meter route analysts to review every route, every read, every day to make sure that the meter data for our customers' accounts is correct.

We now have 15 customer service staff in the call center, up from the previous four, and a new four-member correspondence unit. In addition there are five more billing adjusters than before. The average caller wait time has dropped dramatically, from more than 20 minutes in March to about four minutes today.

At the direction of MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake, we are fast-tracking a new automated metering system, along with a new billing system to remove the potential for error and abuse and bring our system into the second decade of the 21st century. DPW is fully committed to improving service for our citizens.

Al Foxx, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works.

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