PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. – On January 10th, the new Calvert County Board of Commissioners held its first meeting of the year 2023. This meeting began with a request from Calvert County Administrator Mark Willis.
In this request, Willis asked the board to pause and re-evaluate the results of a recent EDU audit and the billing procedures.
For those who might not know, an EDU (Equivalent Development Unit) is made to allocate assigned water capacity for water systems and wastewater treatment plants, as permitted by the state. Each EDU is equal to 18,000 gallons of water per calendar quarter or approximately 200 gallons of water a day.
The recent audit of the Calvert County EDU examined the total water consumption of all Calvert County-owned water and sewer system customers from the beginning of April 2020 to the end of March 2022.
What the audit discovered was that, “220 residential customers and 87 businesses were determined to be using capacity in excess of 120% of their current allocation.” An amount that is incredibly farfetched and unbelievable.
What is most egregious about this situation is the impact that it has had on the citizens of Calvert County.
One woman named Peta Sinclair, a 46-year-old resident of Marley Run, told NBC News that she had received a bill of $16,800, a bill that brought her to tears.
“We didn’t know how we’re going to pay this. We have an 18-year-old preparing for college, so now we’re making the determination: Are we going to pay for college, or are we going to pay this bill?”
Another resident, Sheri Verdon, a Realtor and representative from Marley Run, received a bill for $3000. An absolutely shocking amount.
According to Mrs. Verdon, “the director of public works clearly stated that this resolution was intended only for commercial businesses and would not affect the homeowners in any way.”
Another Calvert woman named Jennifer Naron was billed $6000, twice the amount of Mrs. Verdon. This is an amount of money that they do not have.
Warren Murt, another Marley Run resident, was billed $6000 to pay for two additional EDUs.
Mr. Murt said, “Please listen to the residents more than you’re listening to the consultants, and I would ask you to please repeal this resolution or amend it.”
“Pause these bills and revisit the data”, said Steve Killian, a resident who even presented data containing irregularities in his water usage.
The largest bill received by a resident in this debacle was for $33,600. This is an absolutely horrendous and absurd amount.
The purpose of this EDU audit was to adequately ensure that an account of system capacities are accurately maintained to best serve customers. Evidently it came up short in that regard.
The audit, “identified a correlation between increased use and capacity on our systems and the public who may have been working from home during the pandemic.”
In other words, there could be an anomaly around the actual amount of water usage as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The main suggestion brought forward by the administrator is that the board put a pause on the recent bills distributed to customers because of the audit, and reassess the results of said audit. This became a motion that passed unanimously.
Administrator Willis has stated that he will take full responsibility for the problems that this issue has caused the public. He is also asking for guidance in bringing back Resolution 32-16, which would allow for a provision to exclude a specific amount of water consumption due to certain circumstances.
“The customer service was horrible. We’ll take as long as we need to take to get that right. It could be six months; it could be a year; it could be longer than that.”
The Board of County Commissioners also apologized to the citizens of Calvert, promising to correct this mistake and make things right.
Commissioner Mark Cox responded to the situation, saying, “Let me reassure you that this board is committed to make this right. We will do the right thing.”
“I wanna echo what Mark said,” replied Commissioner Catherine Grasso. “We will make sure this is fixed and we will educate you and make sure it is fixed. We are working for you and we will get it fixed.”
Commissioner Earl “Buddy” Hance also added one final comment on the situation.
“We’re going to do our very best to work with you all for whatever period of time it takes to figure out why your usage is up, make sure you understand where you are.”
The full presentation and comments from the board, as well as comments from residents, can be found at https://calvertcounty.granicus.com/player/clip/1697?view_id=24&redirect=true&h=dc81b672aae3202eaa88b27aab7a19d0.