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New Baltimore County water, sewer rates go into effect July 1; what they'll be hasn't been disclosed

Baltimore County is expected to raise its rates for water and sewer service for the coming year, but has not announced the new rates just days before they are scheduled to go into effect.

Officials with the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, which represents landlords, said members have been asking questions about sewer rates as they plan their budgets. The group’s leaders say they are frustrated that the county has not announced the new rates.

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Adam Skolnik, executive director of the association, said its members “want to know what the rates are going to be. I think it’s a pretty reasonable question to ask, and we’re getting absolutely nothing from the county.”

The rates will affect residential and commercial property owners. Any changes will take effect starting July 1.

Baltimore County has raised water and sewer rates each of the past three years, with the announcement typically being made in March or April. Last year’s increase was 8.4 percent.

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for the county, said an announcement is planned for this coming week. She said the process of finalizing the calculations took longer this year.

The only hint of new sewer rates came during a County Council meeting in late May, when Fred Homan, the county administrative officer, mentioned that the rates would have to increase by at least 12.5 percent.

In past years, county officials have said rate increases are necessary to pay for infrastructure projects, such as replacing and relining pipes and upgrading sewage treatment plants. Those upgrades are needed to remain in compliance with a 2005 federal agreement that fined the county $750,000 and ordered tens of millions of dollars in improvements.

The upgrades are designed to help prevent water main breaks and sewage overflows. The county maintains more than 3,000 miles of sewer lines, more than 2,000 miles of water lines and more than 100 sewage pumping stations.

In addition to the need to make expensive upgrades, the county government is facing limits on the amount it can borrow for projects.

Earlier this year, the county’s Spending Affordability Committee — which offers advice on the county’s finances — warned that the county is on track to run up against its limits for borrowing while not setting aside enough money in savings.

Skolnik said his organization reached out to the county’s Don Mohler in the spring about the water and sewer rates. Mohler, now the county executive, was then the chief of staff to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who died in May.

Skolnik said that while Mohler responded to the group’s inquiries, he did not provide specific answers about the sewer rates.

“We feel like it’s incumbent upon the county to be transparent and forthcoming with this kind of information,” he said.

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