Mayor Scott Announces Plan to Revamp DPW Meter Shop
Friday Jan 22nd, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, MD (Friday, January 22, 2021) — Today, Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced that the City of Baltimore will retain Water Meter Shop operations and staff as part of the Department of Public Works (DPW) while implementing a plan to overhaul Meter Shop operations for a better-functioning water system.
The Meter Shop manages the placement and maintenance of all City and County water meters. Sixty-nine City employees are currently assigned to the Meter Shop, 92% being residents of Baltimore City.
“Water meters are the cash registers for the City’s water billing operations,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “The improvements that we are implementing will lay the foundation to ensure that all water bills are accurate and that they arrive on time.”
"Stopping the outsourcing of the meter shop is a declaration that this administration is committed to doing everything possible to train and equip our employees with the tools and skills necessary to deliver quality services to our customers," said City Administrator Christopher Shorter. "These initiatives are an exciting and new way for City Hall to partner with the utility and bring all the resources of the City to improve our water meters, which will help improve our troubled billing system."
The core duties of the Meter Shop include:
- Driving collector vehicles around Baltimore County to collect county meter reads and addressing issues discovered in the field;
- Responding to kick out from the city system to assess errors, and triage issues causing the kick out;
- Responding to customers who have reported issues with the meter – examining, repairing, replacing, and removing;
- Performing turn-offs or turn-ons as required and needed; and
- Managing the towers, receivers, and other equipment/infrastructure.
In October 2020, the previous administration announced a plan that would have privatized these core operations and resulted in the loss of more than 60 jobs.
“Yesterday, I personally met with employees of the meter shop to deliver a message: the City is not moving forward with the Itron contract and you will not be laid off,” continued Mayor Scott. “Rather than eliminate this operation and privatize core functions, I along with, City Administrator Shorter, DPW Acting Director Garbark, union representatives, and employees, have determined that it would be in the best interest of Baltimore to invest in our City and our employees. I look forward to implementing the new training, protocols, and accountability measures that I know will improve operations for our residents.”
Steve Stricklin, Director of the Mayor's Office of Project Management, will serve as Acting Director of the Meter Shop. Mayor Scott has directed City Administrator Shorter and Acting DPW Director Garbark to create a team, comprised of staff from the two offices, to:
- Control and manage the Meter Shop;
- Develop and implement a document/process review for individual employee assessments with each employee ultimately having an Individual Development Plan;
- Develop a process for reviewing, editing, and drafting current and new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), rules, and procedures;
- Work with CitiStat to create benchmarks for quality and timeliness of tasks performed by Meter Shop;
- Create a baseline performance report for all core Meter Shop Functions;
- Retrain staff in new SOPs, rules, and processes and creating a tracking mechanism to ensure accountability;
- Work with BCIT to include Water Meter crews into the City’s Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD);
- Conduct management-driven field inspections ensuring work is properly performed.
- Review job descriptions and reclassifying employees accordingly.
- Assess the quality and span of control for Meter Shop managers.
- Review management and minimum qualifications for the function.
- Identify and training potential managers.
- Identify a potential permanent Meter Shop Director.
“DPW made recent critical improvements to the Meter Shop, which includes using RouteSmart technology,” said Acting Director Matthew Garbark. “This new technology combines the 15 different billing cycle groups into geographic areas, reducing the distance between service request locations allowing for greater efficiencies.”
“I believe this new plan is needed to ensure fairness to the employees who have not received adequate training or leadership in the past,” said Mayor Scott. “I look forward to better managing this operation for the benefit of our residents across the city.”