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Hearing scheduled for concerns on city water system privatization

Will Baltimore sell its water system to a private company? Officials say no, but council calls for hearing.

Concerns about Baltimore selling its water system to a private company will be vetted at a City Council hearing at 5 p.m. Dec. 1.

Councilman Carl Stokes said while Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration has stressed that there are no plans to sell the water system, he wants agency officials to explain why they are looking for a consultant to study operations.

"Why go to an outside vendor rather than rely on [the city's] own expertise?" Stokes said.

It's unclear when the city's spending panel will vote on the proposed $500,000 study.

The hearing announcement came as hundreds rallied outside City Hall to draw attention to their concerns about keeping the water system public, as well as a call for good jobs, safe streets and high-quality schools.

Stokes, who chairs the council's Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee, said he also wants to ask administration officials about the decision to contract with the company HomeServe USA to offer homeowners insurance coverage for broken and damaged water and sewer lines.

Many residents are confused about the insurance and don't realize that's its not required, he said.

Officials have said that as the city's aging infrastructure undergoes significant upgrades, lines on private property are subject to breaks. Insurance for water and sewer line protection costs less than $9 a month with HomeServe.

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