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City Council Special Meeting News Summary November 7, 2017

November 7, 2017

At the special meeting on November 7, 2017, the New Orleans City Council addressed representatives of the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) to receive updates regarding ongoing billing issues, the civil service hiring process, system operations during hurricane season and the post-hurricane season transition plan. Additionally, the Council adopted a motion to provide notice of intent to adopt ad valorem property taxes for the 2018 budget and received a brief update from the Administration on the St. Claude Drainage Project and other green infrastructure projects throughout the City.

Sewerage & Water Board Updates

At today's meeting, the Interim Emergency Management and Support Team of the S&WB answered questions regarding the status of ongoing customer billing issues and its civil service hiring process. In addition, they provided a report on system operations during the 2017 hurricane season and the post-season transition plan.

Members of this team, which include former Louisiana Recovery Authority Director Paul Rainwater, were selected to provide administrative, financial and technical capacity to the Sewerage & Water Board throughout hurricane season and the months following.

The Council began by questioning the S&WB representatives about the high volume of billing errors and complaints. A systematic report compiled by Councilmember Brossett's office details more than 100 constituent complaints with overbilling in District "D" alone.

"There has to be some way to fix this problem for people without inconveniencing them," said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams. "How can we ask people to leave their job, to come pay a bill they don't even owe?"

District "E" Councilmember Gray said, "I think the largest issue we're seeing with constituents and these bills is not only that they have another bill to pay, but that they're not being treated as human beings by a government agency. This cannot be allowed to continue. We have to treat people with a certain level of respect and dignity."

The team addressed the Council's concerns and said that while the organization was committed to finding a solution to the many issues plaguing the S&WB, certain systemic obstacles remain. "I don't disagree with what you're saying at all, this is unacceptable," said Rainwater. "Right now the best thing to do is instead of just case managers in the back office; the entire team will be activated to help fix the existing billing issues. Until we get some sort of systemic solution, that's the best we can do right now. We're moving as quickly as we possibly can, and we have two people here today that will be taking names and numbers to address billing discrepancies." The S&WB is still operating under emergency conditions, according to the report. The system has been in a perpetual state of emergency for quite some time, and is still operating on an emergency basis almost daily, said Rainwater. The S&WB faced additional challenges resulting from emergency response preparations for Hurricanes Nate and Harvey, working 24/7 leading up to the event and throughout the after-action period. Many of the pumping stations now have Wi-Fi and safety equipment, which did not previously exist. Rainwater said this made "absolutely no sense" in a 21st-century operation and attributed it to a lack of qualified leadership and management.

To read the full news release, click here.


Notice of Intent to Adopt 2018 Budget Matters

The Council adopted Motion M-17-563 announcing its intention to adopt ad valorem property taxes for the 2018 budget at the regular meeting on Thursday, December 14, 2017. At that meeting, the Council will vote to continue ad valorem property taxes for the coming year, keeping them at the same levels as 2017. State law requires notice to be published and an announcement to be made at a public meeting of the Council, and notice of such meeting be in writing and delivered to each state senator and representative in whose district a portion of the political subdivision is located within sixty days of action. Due to an oversight by the New Orleans Times-Picayune in failing to publish this announcement after the last regularly scheduled Council meeting on Oct. 26, 2017, the motion was re-adopted at today's special meeting. 



Sewerage & Water Board Updates

Notice of Intent to Adopt 2018 Budget Matters

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Information presented by the New Orleans City CouncilDavid S. Gavlinski, Chief of StaffCouncil Information (504) 658-1000Clerk of Council (504) 658-1085
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