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After Ritz-Carlton owners claimed $2.3M in unpaid debt, city says problems with water billing not widespread

An investigation into Baltimore’s water billing system after a condominium complex claimed it wanted to pay $2.3 million in uncollected debt has found that five of 200,000 water accounts in the city should be referred for further investigation while there are “no systemic issues related to the placement of water meters at properties within the City.”

In a news release Wednesday, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office wrote that the investigation — which looked at water billing accounts in the city that had never been billed as well as properties with no associated water billing account — found the majority of cases could be resolved internally.

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The city partnered with Raftelis Financial Consultants and Peer Consulting to compile the report, which will be made public, the office wrote.

“In approximately 90% of the cases where an address was provided for investigation, an active matching account exists in UMAX, but under a different address, as part of a complex-parcel, or the parcel associated with the address has been deleted and replaced with another,” the office wrote.

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UMAX is the customer information system used to manage billing information that the city began implementing in 2016 in its partnership with Itineris, which works in technologies related to the water and energy utilities fields.

The city initiated the investigation after attorneys representing condominium owners at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Baltimore said their clients wanted to pay $2.3 million in uncollected debt related to uncollected water and sewer bills between 2009 and 2017.

The city said in October that it would outsource meter reading, small-meter installation and maintenance in Baltimore City and Baltimore County to Itron Inc., an American technology company with headquarters in Washington.

The city has been beset for years by a dysfunctional water billing system. The problems have ranged from overcharging customers thousands of dollars in 2012 to the latest collection issues with the Ritz-Carlton Residences last year.

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