Department of Public Works – Part 1

This is the first in a series of email correspondence with the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works. The snarky emails have become a favorite among family and friends. The first email was sent  out of complete frustration, to a contact that I received from our local community representative, after making monthly phone calls for over a year. I will also be adding the additional emails that followed (that’s right, even 1 snarky email did not do the trick, it took several) to the humor folder.

January 11, 2018
Dear Ms. W and Ms. L,
I was given your contact information from my local representative’s office, in the hopes that one of you may be able to assist me with a water billing issue I have been attempting to have corrected since July 2016. Yes, you read that correctly – 2016. Dozens of phone calls and several promises, here I am 1 1/2 years later, still waiting. 
After receiving a bill for more than 4 times my usual amount, I contacted the City of Baltimore in July of 2016 concerning the billing period of 04/26/16-07/19/16 in the amount of $288.66. A technician was sent out and upon arrival, found running water at the street meter. He informed me that I must have a leak inside my home. He advised me to have a plumber come out and submit a bill of any repairs to the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works and my bill would be adjusted. 
Sounds pretty easy, right? I had a plumber, at my expense (and we all know those bad boys aren’t cheap), review my entire home and although he was unable to find any indication of plumbing issues, he did locate one toilet with a flapper that was slightly loose. He replaced the flapper and I submitted the bill to the Adjustments department on 08/12/16. While waiting for the adjustment, I paid the $288.66 bill to avoid my account becoming delinquent (probably my first mistake) and assumed (my second mistake, you know the old saying!) I would just have a credit balance posted to my account upon the adjustment becoming finalized. 
In November of 2016, I received my next quarterly bill for the billing period 07/19/16 – 10/21/16 and eagerly opened it like a kid on Christmas morning in anticipation of seeing my lovely credit balance. However, you can imagine my let down, upon reviewing my bill and finding that in addition to not having credit, I now had been issued a bill for $356.15. My bill was now 5 times its usual amount. I contacted the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works again, and was told that they had never received the fax that I knew had been sent because I saved that handy little sheet that fax machines shoot out, letting you know that your fax has been successfully sent. In any case, I re-faxed my first fax to the Adjustments Department and was assured it would be corrected. 
Guess what I received in January 2017? A delinquency notice for the $356.15 from the November bill because at this point I am not paying a second incorrect bill. So, I make yet another phone call to my new found friends over at the City of Baltimore on January 17, 2017, all while my 2 year old is crying and requesting fruit snacks as I attempt to relay a detailed account to one of the representatives for probably the 6th time. This time, she informs me that the credit will not be issued to my account because my water usage has increased and not decreased since I submitted the repair order from the plumber. I think she takes pity on me mostly because she can hear the tantrum taking place in the background, but in any case, offers to send another technician out in the morning and gives me a Work order #377938. 
The technician comes out the next day and has me turn off my water from inside… and tells me that I must have a small leak because the meter is still moving slowly after my water is shut off. I plead with him for an answer. I explain that I have already had a plumber inspect my home, inside and out. That there are zero signs of any leaking water anywhere in my home. I invited him to come inspect my home himself. At which point, I may have scared him a bit, because he told me to have a plumber come back out and seriously high tailed it out of here. I stand defeated in the cloud of dust left from his vehicle and although I am positive that the issue is not our plumbing or water usage, I am becoming desperate so I call the plumber, again. He agrees to come back, again. He inspects the house, again. He hooks up a valve to my faucets inside and out to detect any running water… Zilch, Zero, Nada, Nothing. Just as I had expected. I spend the next few days in a haze, trying to do the calculations and realizing that if my bill continues to increase at the rapid rate it has, I may need to start dipping into my kids’ college funds to pay for it.  
A few days later, I receive a new quarterly bill and although the delinquent amount of $356.15 has not been adjusted, it does show that my current quarter water consumption rate is back to that of a normal customer and my current charges are only for $69.34. After 6 months, a dozen phone calls, two technician visits, two paid plumbing visits, and two faxes my water consumption returned to normal just as mysteriously as it had increased previously. 
I am feeling pretty victorious at this point, I patted myself on the back for my diligence and ability to follow up. Just to be safe though, I make a quick call to the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works to discuss the little issue concerning the past due amount (remember that $356.15) and the $288.66 that I had paid 6 months ago and had never been credited. Well the call wasn’t really quick because I apparently had called during a time they were receiving “high call volumes” so I pushed the key to have the Water Gods call me back when it was my turn. I guarded the phone, actually stalked the phone would probably be a more accurate term. I had to fend off two kids that had now arrived home from school and wanted to call a friend, but I prevailed and about 20 mins later the phone rang, which I mistaken briefly for the sound of angels singing in my naive hopefulness that I was getting closer to a resolution. I spoke with another representative who was quite lovely and she told me that she could see that my account was being reviewed and to simply wait for a new bill to be sent to me after the adjustments had taken place, or I could call back in 3-4 weeks and the review/adjustments would be done. I thanked her and quickly let her off the phone because I certainly did not want to waste anyone’s time at the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works and I definitely did not want to anger the Water Gods again. 
Just for reference, our family averages around 250 for our average daily gallons use, however, your meter readings had us using a little over 1,400 gallons for our average daily use. Seems legit. To give you an indication of what we would need to do to consume that much water, I have researched a few items. We would need to fill up an average sized swimming pool… every two weeks and we don’t have a pool, become the daily, local watering hole for about 28 elephants – as elephants can consume up to 50 gallons of water a day or flush our toilets about 280 times a day. I could go on and on but I think you get my drift. 
I make phone calls a few more times over the next several weeks to follow up, because at this point, I am a professional follow upper of the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works, which I have now added to my resume under the skills section, as well as, a reference under previous employer. Each time, I am told it is still in review and should be finalized in 3-4 weeks. A few months pass and I am still patient and hopeful as Spring begins and the weather starts getting warmer, that is, until I receive yet another quarterly bill for 01/20/17 – 04/26/17 which still has 0 adjustments, the delinquent amount of $356.15, the now delinquent amount of $69.34 that I was told to not pay and wait for a corrected bill and my current quarterly billed amount of $69.34. I call, again. 
This time a representative says that she can see a credit coming through my account, Hallelujah!!! but that I need to pay $78.74 to keep my account in good standing. I agree and pay online that evening. A short time later, I receive a bill reflecting the adjustments that have now been applied to my account, it is for the quarterly bill for 07/19/16 – 10/21/16 which was originally for $356.15 and has now been adjusted to the amount of $67.46. We are finally making some progress!!! I double check the envelope to be sure that there isn’t another statement because I still haven’t received credit from the 04/26/16-07/19/16 quarter, which is the bill that sounded the alarm but I had paid in full and started this entire process. So guess what I have to do, again? That’s right, make another phone call to “you know who” and spend another 30 minutes of my life that I will never get back speaking to a representative and explaining this saga One. More. Time. 
The representative, this time, is a real hoot and she explains to me the very strict rules and guidelines the City of Baltimore has concerning water bill adjustments. She tells me that I can only have one adjustment in 1 year, and since they adjusted one quarter, I am not eligible to have my 04/26/16 – 07/19/16 quarterly bill corrected. I put the phone on mute, screamed to the Water Gods for mercy, collected myself and uttered out ‘Huh? I am sorry, what?’ believe me, it was much better than the words floating in my head. She reiterates that I am not “eligible” to receive an adjustment for another year. I explain to her that I am not asking for an adjustment because of an error on my part but, instead, simply requesting to pay for the actual amount of water that I have consumed. I try to explain how this business model of “Our first mistake is on us but all other mistakes made in a year are on you” is absurd. She isn’t getting it, so I ask to speak to a manager. I am told that a Manager is not available and that her Manager’s boss is also “unavailable”. I tell her that we can just hang out on the phone until a manager becomes available because I have about 6 episodes of Paw Patrol on the DVR and a bag of Goldfish to keep the 2 year old happy so the world is my oyster. 
Magically, a manager becomes available and I yet again get to repeat my water journey for maybe the 15th time. She understands my issue and says she will submit my account to the adjustments department for a “special review” because of the unique circumstances but will be sure to follow up with me in a few days – that was about 3 months ago. I have now been forced to contact my local representative’s office to ask for help which leads me to you. I have grown a child in my body and given birth in less time than it is taking to make simple adjustments to a bill with an error that is not my fault. I am now told that because my water consumption rate was way off, my property taxes have now also erroneously increased. I am out of options and begging for any assistance. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via email or phone.
Thank you
Shannon Armenis

Published by shannonarmenis

Full-time mom, part-time writer. Serving up thoughts on parenting, life and love in between forgetting to fold laundry in the dryer, threatening to take away Ipads and looking for my patience.

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