Young begins search for new DPW director

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With DPW Director Rudy Chow leaving his post on Feb. 1, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today launched a national search for a new head of the agency.

On the day Chow leaves, Deputy Director Matt Garbark will become acting director, according to the city charter.

“The director for the Department of Public Works is one of the most vital positions in city government,” Young said in a statement. “The director is responsible for running a large regional water utility, maintaining our water quality and making and keeping our city clean. I am committed to finding a dynamic director to lead this critically important work.”

The director also sits on the Board of Estimates, a body responsible for approving municipal spending decisions.

DPW has a nearly $600 million in operating funds and employs 2,723 workers, according to the budget for fiscal year 2020 published by the city. The agency manages water distribution, waste water treatment, trash and recycling collection, and stormwater management, overseeing 4,500 miles of distribution mains and 3,100 miles of collection and conveyance lines beneath Baltimore’s streets.

In recent years the city entered into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency, pledging to spend $1.6 billion by 2030 to fix the sewer system that routinely releases sewage into the harbor. The city previously reached a deal with the federal agency in 2002 but failed to get the necessary work done.

Chow, who was hired in 2011 to lead DPW’s Bureau of Water and elevated to the role of director in early 2014, made fixing the sewers a top priority.

But DPW has also come under fire during his tenure. The agency struggled to fix the city’s water-billing system, which many have said is error-prone. And DPW has raised rates for water, while sparring over legislation that would calculate an income-based credit for Baltimore’s low-income households. The bill tying water rates to income was passed by the city council and recently signed into law by Young.

Days after Chow’s retirement was announced in a press release from Young’s office, news reports revealed the luxury Ritz-Carlton Residences had not paid for water in years, despite asking the city to be billed. As a result, Young launched an audit of water billing.

The agency has also been the subject of numerous investigations by the Office of the Inspector General, with two reports suggesting trash collection was hindered by “financial waste and mismanagement,” including workers receiving overtime pay they did not earn.

Applicants interested in the position can apply here.

Brandon Weigel

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