NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans City Councilman Jay Banks has been chosen to represent the full city council on the board of directors of the troubled Sewerage and Water Board.
Banks’ selection was made public during a special meeting of the council’s Public Works Committee. In his new role, Banks will have a city government engineer to assist him with technical S&WB matters.
Last Saturday voters approved a city charter amendment which cleared the way for a council member to sit on the S&WB’s board of directors.
"So, we will make sure that billing, that revenue collection, that boil water advisories, that the water shutoffs remain top of the agenda items,” said City Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who as chairman of the Public Works Committee has the responsibility to decide who will represent the council on the S&WB’s board.
The charter amendment removes one of the mayor’s appointees to the board and adds a city council representative. The measure voters approved said the council representative could be the chair of the Public Works Committee, another council member, or a civil engineer.
"My goals are to restore public confidence in the Sewerage and Water Board. Right now, we have a behemoth, we have a behemoth of problems,” said Councilman Banks.
Giarrusso said a council motion will be filed on Monday to reflect what was stated during the committee meeting.
"To get our ball rolling and make sure the paperwork is correct, and then we’ll vote on it next Thursday,” Giarrusso stated.
For more than a year, S&WB customers have been vocal about overly inflated water bills. The agency has acknowledged that there were problems with many bills.
"Mr. Banks, I hope that you will go back and try to get the unearned money that’s been taken from our citizens and put into the Sewerage and Water Board treasury, go back there and get it back for them,” said resident Pat Bryant.
An engineer who is joining the City Council Utilities Regulatory Office will assist Banks in his new role with the S&WB.
"It’s important for two reasons, number one, Council member Banks needs to be prepared and understand what the questions are, you can get sidetracked really easily by ‘engineer speak’ or anything else,” stated Giarrusso.
“I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know and I don’t pretend to know everything, so we will have an engineer that will be able to help with the technical stuff,” added Banks.”
"And secondly, we want that engineer to be able to explain it publicly, so people understand and they’re really aware of what’s happening,” said Giarrusso.
Banks believes his presence on the board will improve accountability.
"We’ve got to restore public confidence back in the Sewerage and Water Board, and I’m hoping that I can be a voice of reason and get to that end,” Banks stated.