Democratic candidate for Maryland governor Wes Moore’s campaign said Wednesday night that Moore has paid about $21,000 in outstanding Baltimore City water and sewage bills after a local news outlet published that his water account was delinquent.
“The Moores have paid the current balance out of an abundance of caution while they review the accuracy of the charges,” campaign spokesperson Brian Adam Jones said that night.
Jones said Moore and his wife, Dawn Moore, were unaware of the balance before Wednesday when The Baltimore Brew reported Moore had an unpaid $21,200 water bill for his Guilford home.
The couple purchased their 2 1/2-story home in Guilford in 2017 for $2.35 million, according to land records.
On Wednesday, an online Baltimore water bill database indicated that Moore last paid a $2,000 water bill for their home in March 2021. As of late Wednesday night, Moore owed the city $21,200, according to online city records. The most recent bill was due Sept. 26.
Baltimore has faced issues with its billing system for years. An audit released in February found the city did not have a process for collecting from customers with delinquent water bills and was not monitoring customer accounts overdue 30 days or longer. Late notices were not sent to customers with overdue bills, and overdue accounts were not referred to the city’s Law Department or collections agencies, according to the audit.
The city’s Department of Public Works did not respond to a request for comment about progress made to address those issues.
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Moore’s campaign spokesperson, asked whether the Moores had received late notices or, if not, why they hadn’t looked into it themselves, said only that the couple was unaware of the issue until Wednesday and was looking into it.
It also was unclear why the bill at the Moores’ residence — a 6,000-square-foot, 100-year-old home with a pool — was so high.
Rianna Eckel, a Baltimore organizer who focuses on water issues with the group Food & Water Watch, said city residents continue to face yearslong issues with water bills, including bills that don’t show up on time or that have incorrect charges.
Still, she said the size of Moore’s outstanding bill and the fact that a payment had not been made in over a year raises questions of whether Moore was at fault.
Long-term issues with the city’s billing system combined with customers who don’t pay their bills also contribute to a “downward spiral with the water bills every year” because those who do continue to pay their bills have faced large rate increases.
Rates increased by more than 9% every year between 2016 and this year, when city officials approved a smaller, 3% increase for each of the next three years.
“This one case obviously is not the reason our infrastructure is crumbling, but the corporate entities and wealthy people who are able to afford their bills and who aren’t paying them, for whatever reason it may be, are putting the burden on working class Baltimoreans,” Eckel said.