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Baltimore mayor asks for $245,000 salary for public works director, third highest in city

The mayor is asking the Baltimore City Council to approve a $245,000 salary for the director of the Department of Public Works, a move that would make the position one of the city’s best-paid jobs.

The proposed increase, which was introduced before the board Monday night, was requested by Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott. The DPW director’s salary is set by city ordinance at $188,000. The new amount would represent a 30% increase.

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Scott’s spokesperson, Stefanie Mavronis, said the salary would be comparable to other cities of Baltimore’s size and “commensurate to the great challenges we face.”

Baltimore has been without a permanent director in the Department of Public Works since the retirement of Rudolph S. Chow in early 2020. Matthew Garbark is the acting director.

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Scott pledged to find a permanent director for the department within 100 days of taking office Dec. 6, and interviews are underway, Mavronis said.

The position is critical and heavily scrutinized, as the director oversees Baltimore’s crumbling water infrastructure and failing sewer system.

The water system, owned by Baltimore City but also serving Baltimore County, has been plagued for years by billing problems. In December, a report released by city Inspector General Isabel Cumming and Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan highlighted millions of dollars in lost revenue due to thousands of broken meters and more than 8,000 unresolved “tickets” on problems with customers’ accounts.

Baltimore is also subject to a $1.6 billion consent agreement with the federal government to overhaul its sewer system and stop wastewater from polluting the Inner Harbor by 2030.

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Trash collection, also within DPW’s purview, has been strained by the coronavirus pandemic. Parts of the operation remain suspended, and the city halted curbside recycling collection for six months to focus on trash pickup, which has increased by 22% during the pandemic. Recycling service restarted in January with the help of five contractors who could cost the city up to $7 million this year.

The council’s Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing to discuss Scott’s salary proposal.

If the council approves the bigger salary, the DPW director would be the third-highest-paid city employee. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has a higher base salary, at $275,000 a year, and the Board of Estimates approved a $250,000 salary in December for the newly created city administrator position. That position is being held in an acting capacity by Christopher Shorter, pending the council’s approval of his appointment by the mayor.

Democratic State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is currently No. 3 on the salary list at $238,772. City Finance Director Henry Raymond made $221,987 in fiscal year 2020, according to figures from the mayor’s office.

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