Askew grate is grating

The Baltimore Sun

THE PROBLEM : The grate over a Southeast Baltimore storm inlet was broken and ajar.

THE BACKSTORY : Joseph Thomas called Watchdog twice last month with his problem: A sewer plate remained ajar at the No. 20 bus stop on Boston Street at Gusryan Street in his O'Donnell Heights neighborhood.

Because of the plate, "the bus could never pull right to the curb," he said. "He was always 5, 6 feet beyond that." Thomas noticed the plate six months ago and called Watchdog for help. "If they had two strong men, they could just pick it up and put it straight," he said.

The problem actually required a little more assistance than that, but city public works staff still resolved the situation less than five hours after they were contacted by Watchdog.

A public works staff member who happened to be nearby on Wednesday stopped to check it out. He called the city's Transportation Department to make the area safe until a new grate was delivered and the old one was removed.

Baltimore has 33,000 storm inlets across the city, and any problems should be reported to 311, said Kurt Kocher, spokesman for Baltimore's Department of Public Works.

"We certainly want to address something like that right away," he said.

There's no record of a 311 report in the city system. It took weeks before this problem was addressed, but it might have been resolved much sooner if the reader had called 311 directly to report it, Kocher said.

"Anyone who lives in an area where one of these is damaged or even if the grate is ajar, people should call 311," Kocher said. "It could be potentially dangerous. We don't want anybody to trip over it."

WHO CAN FIX THIS : City residents should call 311 first to report problems.

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