NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board said it plans to begin filling and paving thousands of potholes which resulted from underground work as early as Monday.
Some residents agree it is the S&WB’s responsibility to fix what it tears up.
"Even if it's not a pothole it's also just the lumps and waves that are formed by the constantly never properly fixing and always patching,” said Jerry Brock, who lives in the Carrollton neighborhood as he pointed out the condition of his street.
New S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban owns up to the agency’s contribution to street issues.
"The Sewerage and Water Board caused the work, you know we were there for a good reason, we were repairing something underground but then part of the completing of that piece of work is to finish that street,” said Korban.
He sees the effort as beneficial to all concerned. "Recognizing that there's over 4,000 patches throughout the city it's our responsibility to complete the work and then one by one finish off these patches and then pave them and make the residents and the traveling public whole,” said Korban.
"What I believe they're doing is fixing the leak that's under the ground and they tore up the street to do that,” said Cynthia Cashman, another resident.
She lives on a street where S&WB workers are currently assigned.
"I think that's what they ought to do. They're the ones tearing up the street, they should be the responsible to fix it,” Cashman stated.
Brock offered a more global perspective.
“It's just a small drop in the bucket when it comes to the condition of the streets in the neighborhoods of New Orleans, no matter what neighborhood it is,” stated Brock. Street work is not the only priority for the Sewerage and Water Board. The agency is also dealing with a serious cash reserve issue and hopes it can get some help from the federal government sooner than later. "We're diligently continuing to work on expediting some reimbursement that are due to us from FEMA and other agencies. We're trying to explain to them obviously the tough situation we are in,” said Korban.
He said the amount the agency is owed is fluid because it is based on projects, but currently the estimate is around $20 million.
Korban said the agency is still working hard to eliminate billing system issues that have resulted in overly inflated water bills for thousands of customers. "It seems like one month's it's correct and then the next month it's incorrect,” said Brock. "It may be three months, six months, maybe a year before you are where you need to be, in terms of down to the standards, acceptable standards of delinquency at two to five percent,” said Korban.
The agency also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon about its ongoing relationship with the Canadian company which installed the billing software back in 2016.
The Sewerage and Water Board (SWBNO) and Cogsdale would like to clarify a statement made at the City Council’s Public Works Committee meeting Monday, Oct. 15.
Cogsdale and SWBNO have been in constant communication for the past four years, working together from the lead-up and rollout of the new billing system in 2016:
“After the billing system went live on Oct. 24, 2016, SWBNO engaged Cogsdale to assist with certain processes. Cogsdale readily complied.
A team from Cogsdale visited SWBNO in February 2018. At that meeting, the SWBNO team repeated to Cogsdale that they were facing several challenges with the billing system. This resulted in weekly meetings between the two teams, which began in March and continue to this day. Everyone involved has been working diligently through these issues.
Former SWBNO Executive Director Marcie Edwards also addressed SWBNO’s engagement with Cogsdale at a Board of Directors meeting in April 2018, further emphasizing the cooperation among all involved to fix any irregularities.
This was not made apparent during the City Council’s Public Works Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 15. Cogsdale and SWBNO would like to clarify that they have a longstanding, working partnership that will continue until reliability in the billing system and the processes by which SWBNO staff engage the billing system have restored the public’s trust. This was well underway prior to the present Council contacting Cogsdale directly.
As of July 2018, SWBNO had paid Cogsdale $4.8 million to implement the billing system, including the costs of software, maintenance, project management, additional licensing and software to make other SWBNO systems – such as payments over the phone – comply with Cogsdale’s billing software,” the S&WB statement said.