NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - An attorney for more than 200 Uptown residents said the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board may be on the hook for $80 million in home repairs. They blame the damage on massive drainage construction projects.
It is work that seems like it will never end. Major drainage projects on Louisiana, Prytania, Napoleon, and Claiborne - some of Uptown's biggest streets - have been going on for more than 10 years, in some cases.
And though it has been a headache for drivers, it's homeowners who claim they are paying the real price.
"It's shifted off its foundation, porch separating, stucco cracked and the separated roof," said Napoleon avenue homeowner Virginia Saussy.
"The day my china fell off the wall - it's just nuts," said Elizabeth Sewell of Jefferson Avenue.
More than 240 homeowners filed suit. Now their attorney says a federal judge has cleared the way for a negotiated settlements, or mediation, and it won't be cheap.
"Using the average amount of claim amounts to total claim of $80 million," said homeowners' attorney Michael Whittaker.
That could mean around $400,000 each to homeowners like Sewell.
"Foundation is cracked, and we've had significant sewer repairs in that property," said Sewell.
The mediation process will address homeowner demands in groups of 20 and could take several years.
"The scheduling order is significant because it holds out a prospect for a resolution that residents have wanted for years," said Whittaker.
And while the mediation is seen as a sign of progress, homeowners are dealing with a new setback.
"We had a property tax bill, and they want to increase 267 percent on a house that's been damaged, and I think that's unfair," said Sewell.
The homeowners are asking the city to hold off on the tax increases until after repairs are made on homes, which they say in some cases are not able to be sold in their current condition.
Though the majority of the SELA work was paid for by the Army Corps of Engineers, the attorney for the homeowners said the Sewerage and Water Board bares responsibility for home damage.
The mediation will be supervised by retired federal Judge Michael Hill from Lafayette.