NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Residents fed up with not being compensated for damage they say was caused to their homes by a major drainage project showed up in force to complain during the city council’s Public Works Committee meeting.
They have an ally in council members who said more must be done to help the property owners.
One by one dozens of residents took turns at the microphone.
"Stop playing lawyer games. This is real,” said John Bossier.
Some residents said they have been waiting for years to be compensated.
"I'm not going to tell you about the plaster that falls down in my house or the stucco that is falling off of my house…I encourage you all to just drive up Jefferson Avenue and see the damage that has been done,” said another resident Todd St. Pe’.
The residents blame drainage improvement work done as part of the SELA flood control project and as a result the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board faces numerous lawsuits.
Bossier provided FOX 8 News with photos of cracks in his floors and other damage including to exterior of his home. "The settlements we're asking for, what are you basing it on that they're too high?" Bossier asked leaders of the S&WB present at the meeting.
Council members are frustrated over the lack of progress too and want more residents’ claims settled.
"What it seems like is Sewerage and Water Board is trying to run out the clock,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who is chairman of the Public Works Committee.
Councilman Jay H. Banks represents the city council on the Sewerage and Water Board.
"Whoever the liability is on, it is not on the residents. Now should the Corps have been more diligent in its processes to not crack up the houses, maybe so. Should the Sewerage and Water Board have had more safeguards in place to monitor what the Corps was doing maybe so,” said Banks during the meeting.
The S&WB said it is working with claimants and wants to resolve more cases.
“The board was not the, did not manage the project, did not construct the project and so we do believe that there should be some comparative fault,” said Yolanda Grinstead, special counsel to the S&WB.
An attorney representing hundreds of residents believes the process is being mishandled.
"When the nice lady says we are going to settle she is not writing a check, she is putting you on a list of other judgments which may be paid whenever they think they might want to pay it,” said Joseph Bruno, Esq.
Giarrusso said after the hours-long meeting that he is not satisfied with the agency’s responses.
"No, not at all, we're not even close and the frustrating part is we are here multiple times and said we're going to make progress, we're going to move forward,” Giarrusso stated.
And with the S&WB expected to benefit from millions of dollars flowing to city government for infrastructure needs, Giarrusso thinks settling resident’s claims should be a priority.
"One thing we want is for the claimants to get their money as quickly as possible and that's part of the reason why you heard me ask today, twice, now that you have this influx of money coming in what are you going to do about it?" he said.
Some residents said living with the damage to their homes and the lack of compensation is overwhelming at times.
"I go to my house every day and I see this damage over and over again and it’s just wearing us down. My wife cannot even speak about this matter because she’s reduced to tears,” Bossier said.