Clock ticking on possible federal help for NOLA needs

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell on Thursday laid out a strategy for improving the Sewerage and Water Board. But a Louisiana senator says if the new administration doesn't move fast, it could lose out on millions of dollars in an upcoming infrastructure bill.

For the mayor-elect, it may be job one

"I know you've heard me say it's a mess, but it's multiple layers," Cantrell said.

In her second news conference in two days, Cantrell laid out a strategic plan to try and handle myriad S&WB issues.

"With the lack of coordination, we're wasting resources and not adequately fixing the problem. We're only prolonging the problem," she said.

"I want to help my city and my new mayor any way I can," said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA.

President Donald Trump is expected soon to begin pushing a major national infrastructure bill that could provide millions to fix the city's ancient sewerage, water and drainage system. But Kennedy says the city needs to move fast if it wants federal help.

"Let me be blunt: Decision makers in Washington, D.C. read newspapers and watch TV, and the first step will be to get someone in the Sewerage and Water Board who can run things and not act like a bunch of chuckleheads," Kennedy said.

Drainage issues came to a head during the August 2017 floods. The agency lost its two top managers, Cedric Grant and Joe Becker, after it was learned they misled the public about how many pumps and turbines were broken.

"I don't think the American taxpayer ought to be asked to dump a bunch of money into an agency that looks like it's being run, by a bunch of 12-year-olds," said Kennedy.

Cantrell is conducting a national search for a new S&WB director as she outlines steps to modernize customer service and separate functions now shared with the Department of Public Works.

"We have to accomplish infrastructure projects that we know are needed," said Cantrell.

"The only way I know to fix it is clean house, bring in the right people, and go look for the money," said Kennedy.

And that will be a big challenge. Kennedy is proposing using taxes paid by companies relocating to the U.S. under the tax reform bill to help pay the anticipated $1.5 trillion price tag of the bill being pushed by the Trump administration.

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