New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board says its considering “smart meters”

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 5:07 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board customers like Ricky LaBorde have had enough.

“$100 bill one month, 400 the next month, I’ve tried to resolve it, this has been going on for over a year,” said LaBorde.”I’ve crawled on my belly under my house, I’ve shut my meter off just to make sure I don’t have leaks and there’s nothing wrong, they say there’s nothing wrong on their end, but, there is no way to justify bills like that.”

He’s not alone. During a public works committee meeting Thursday, New Orleans City Council members expressed their frustration with the utility’s customer service.

“I’m frustrated not just as a citizen, as a business owner, as an elected official, when I read the angst that comes into our office consistently, this stuff should be simple, I really don’t understand why we can’t have decent customer service,” said New Orleans City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer.

Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban says the utility has to read 136,000 meters every month. And, in an effort to resolve customer billing issues, they’re hiring more meter readers.

“From a bill perspective, I want you to know, I want the public to know, we are focusing our capacity to reading meters to minimize the need for estimates which has typically been the source of angst and conflict between us and our customers,” said Korban. “The actual process, you’re relying on good dedicated readers to do their job, there are bad meters, there are bad readers, there are opportunities for bad input of putting in one wrong digit and it blows an estimate.”

As for LaBorde, he just wants the problem fixed.

“I’d like to see a more sophisticated system in place,” LaBorde said. ”I’ve been paying water bills my entire life, I’ve never paid this much, my water bill exceeds every bill I have, my cable bill, my insurance, my water bill is the highest bill I have and that’s never been the case.”

Korban says the Sewerage and Water Board is considering replacing every meter in the city with so called “smart meters” to improve billing accuracy. But, he indicated that solution could be years down the road and the project could cost around $50-million.

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