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Council member calls for private firm to help S&WB fill 580 vacancies

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

With a high chance of heavy rains this weekend, City Council members are voicing concern about a new report on a lack of manpower at the Sewerage and Water Board.

That  report shows that the board has been unable to fill more than 587 positions, and Yvette  Russell of Gentilly, is angry.

"I don't think there's any excuse for that, because there's a lot of people out of work," said Russell.

For seven months, Russell says she’s had raw sewage leaking from beneath the sidewalk in front of her home, and it has’t been pleasant. Sewerage workers came out, but the repair is incomplete, and this afternoon the nasty water still puddles on the street in front of her house.

"It's just to the point where it's ridiculous," said City Councilwoman Helena Moreno.

The new report indicates that of the 587 vacancies, civil service has cleared  233 people to begin work, but the hires haven't been made.

"It's a bottleneck in S&WB to get them filled," said Councilwoman Kristin Palmer.

But the mayor believes civil service could do more.

"I have instructed my intergovernmental relations person to begin the process of filling two seats on the Civil Service Commission. We need a full complement of leadership there," said Cantrell.

The positions have gone unfilled for so long, that the S&WB recently cut 15 million unspent dollars from its operating budget due to unpaid but budgeted positions.

"When we have issues with pumps and drainage, if we have budgets for positions, we need to make sure they are filled," said Palmer.

The board recently began a pilot program designed to speed up hiring, but many wonder if it's doing any good.

"The first place we need to look is how their HR department is run," said Palmer.

"It may be time for s and w b to do public private partnership and bring in new hr people to do these hires," said Moreno.

Yvette Russell believes more manpower would help the city deal with flood emergencies and the sewage stench in her front yard.

"They need to start hiring people because there are a lot of people without jobs," she said.

A new mayor and council appear committed to change.

"The issue of staffing in S&WB is a top priority," said Cantrell.

We reached out to the Sewerage and Water Board for comment on this story and were told they would be unavailable for comment because they are busy preparing for the possibility of heavy rains this weekend.

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