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Water Woes Continue As Baltimore City Council Looks To Revamp Billing System

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore city council members Monday took the first step in a process they hope will put an end to residents' concerns about their water bills, months after a ransomware attack took some city services, including the billing system for the water department, offline.

The plan the council voted on Monday night would drastically change the water system by preventing the city from cutting off water service or putting a lien on a property during an appeals process, offer payment plans, create a discount program for those struggling to pay their bill and establishing a new customer service office specifically for water bill-related issues.

The problems date back far before the ransomware attack; last week, Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young's office said it had found the Ritz Carlton property in Federal Hill had not had a water bill since a new meter was installed in 2007.

Others said their bills are in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Pastor Alvin Gwynn, Sr., the president of the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance of Baltimore, said he's had to fight off a tax sale of his church property after the city put a lien on it, even though the bills were incorrect.

"It was still crazy high," Gwynn said. "My meter said I'm using 220 gallons a day, they were saying I'm using (...) 1,300 gallons a day."

Residents have repeatedly complained about getting the run-around when calling about their water bills, which became an even bigger issue after the ransomware attack.

"I mean it would be nice to see that they can get the billing somehow in order. I think everybody who should get a bill, should get a bill," Baltimore resident Fatimah Steffanoff-Statom said.

Council vice president Sharon Green Middleton is a key sponsor of the bill. She hopes once it passes, people will notice a difference.

"I think once this process is in place things will be improved tremendously," she said.

A final council vote is set for next Monday. If it's passed, the legislation would go to the mayor's desk.

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