SW&B President responds to Council Member Stacy Head - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

SW&B President responds to Council Member Stacy Head

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New Orleans, La.- City Council member Stacy Head pushes for a delay of a planned Thursday vote on a Sewerage & Water Board rate request. In response, Sewerage & Water Board President Pro Tempore Ray Manning issued the following statement.

"I was surprised to see Council member Head's comment regarding delaying the rate proposal process even further.

To say that we are rushing is a gross mischaracterization of the facts.

As she is well aware because she sits on the Sewerage and Water Board, the facts are that in December 2009, S&WB authorized a comprehensive rate study after failing to meet its bond covenants for debt service coverage for water system bonds.   We are bleeding over 40% of our water.  Our bond ratings are at junk or nearly- junk status.  Our sewerage system is under federal consent decree. It's a system in dire shape.

The initial rate study was released in 2011 after extensive work of the Board, S&WB staff, and its nationally recognized consultant Raftelis.

The Landrieu administration has been able to attract new federal funding for water and sewer line repair and the power plant to lower the proposed rates, and the S&WB has now gone through three versions of a proposed rate increase. 

There have been over 30 publicly-noticed S&WB meetings where the need for rate changes has been discussed since December 2009. These meetings are also broadcast on public access television.

The S&WB also hosted 6 public meetings across the city in 2012 for residents and businesses to discuss the rate proposal, including:

 

·        January 23- Dryades YMCA;

·        January 26- City Council Chambers;

·        January 30- UNO Lindy Boggs Conference Center;

·        February 6- Behrman Center;

·        February 7- Household of Faith Church; and

·        February 9- Bethel A.M.E. Church.

 

The rate proposal will help pay for capital improvements, long-overdue maintenance and operations costs, and the move to electronic metering, online account management, and modern work-order tracking systems. 

Through the Water Help program, the S&WB is looking to ease the burden on low-income, elderly, and fixed income residents.  

Today, we also announced a training program partnership with Delgado Community College to ensure we have a pipeline of talent for the 186 permanent jobs and tens of thousands of construction jobs created by the capital program. 

Anyone who has looked at this objectively, from the Citizen's Task Force of qualified engineers and business leaders to the BGR to local newspapers, has noted that the rate increases are necessary. 

We have discussed this at length for over 2 years, since I joined the board. We are now at a critical juncture in terms of fulfilling the EPA consent decree on the sewerage system, as well as being able to meet our bond covenants and repair our ailing water and sewer infrastructure.  

Delay is exactly what got us into this situation in the first place.  The "can" cannot be kicked down the road any longer. The time to act is now."

 

Ray Manning, FAIA

President Pro Tempore

New Orleans

Sewerage and Water Board

 

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