NEW ORLEANS - In backyards across the city, pools sit unmaintained, serving as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and posing health and safety threats to children. By law, pools shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, in good repair with a functioning filtration system, and completely surrounded by a six-foot high fence with gates that are self-closing and self-latching. There are at least 61 unmaintained pools, by the city's count, and many have languished in disrepair for over a decade while owners work the city's code enforcement adjudication process to their advantage.
"Sometimes code enforcement hearings and fines are not enough to make people follow the rules," said Councilmember Joseph Giarrusso, who represents District A, during a Governmental Affairs Committee meeting today. Giarrusso has pushed the city to use all available powers and tools to remediate these hazards. "If a homeowner refuses to secure and maintain their pool, the city must declare the pool an emergency. That pool must be cleaned and the owner's property will be liened as a result," continued Giarrusso.
However, at the committee meeting, city officials, upon advice given by the City Attorney, maintained that these pools do not constitute an emergency and that they do not have the power to fill pools that violate the law without providing a hearing and notice despite evidence that in at least one case multiple hearings over a decade have been held and ample notice has been provided.
Upon questioning from Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, Chad Dyer, Deputy CAO, did agree that if a child were to drown in an unsecured pool it would be considered an emergency. "Government has a heightened burden to protect the health and welfare of their citizens," Palmer concluded.
"Personal property rights are not more important than a child's right to live," said Council President Jason Williams. "We are living scared of a lawsuit instead of being scared of a child dying in a pool," said Giarrusso.
Neighbors who have been pressing the city to address an unmaintained pool at 5700 Vicksburg Ave. addressed committee members and representatives from the Department of Code Enforcement. "We've lost faith in this process," said Connie Uddo.