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City council calls for hearings on eviction procedures, delayed water affordability legislation

Emily Sullivan/WYPR
Baltimore City Hall. On Monday night, council members called for hearings into a water affordability law and eviction procedures.

Baltimore City Council members called for hearings Monday on the delayed implementation of a water bill affordability program for low income residents and on eviction procedures.

The Water Affordability and Equity Act passed in 2019, with support from then-Council President Brandon Scott. As mayor, Scott has twice delayed its implementation, citing the pandemic, while water price hikes have continued.

Councilwoman Odette Ramos called for a hearing on the status of the law’s implementation. Representatives from the Department of Public Works, the Department of Finance, and the Office of the Baltimore City Administrator will be invited to testify.

“Hopefully we'll be able to get this up and running in the next couple months,” the Democrat said. “This will be a hearing to get all of those details.”

Councilman Kristerfer Burnett called for a hearing into the sheriff's department’s eviction procedures, saying he will speak with the agency ahead of the meeting to discuss how officers communicate with residents, tenants and property owners.

He said that some residents have raised questions about eviction procedures after dealing with squatters, describing an incident in which a property owner had planned on hiring a locksmith to change their property’s locks once the squatter left.

A sheriff’s deputy was supposed to be present while the locks were changed, but no one showed up or told the building owner, who was on a fixed income and had to pay the locksmith, of the change in plans, Burnett said.

“Apparently this is a common occurrence in which there may be some communication gaps,” he said.

Council staffers will likely schedule the hearings within the next few weeks.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.