NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A New Orleans City Council member questioned the Sewerage & Water Board's collections process as customers said they are facing the possibility of a water shut off after receiving bills costing thousands of dollars that they believe are a mistake.
The utility recently announced it will resume normal collections and shut off water for delinquent accounts. The board had suspended shut-offs in November after admitting that many people were getting questionable bills.
Thursday, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said "we know it's not right."
City Council member Helena Moreno said the shutoff process was not well thought out.
"At the end of the day the billing procedures are not clear and it's just premature," she said.
Moreno added the council suggested different options for increasing Sewerage and Water Board collections.
"Including dealing with the individuals, the 9,000 individuals who are currently not receiving bills. I have received e-mails from some of these individuals who literally are to the point of begging the Sewerage and Water Board 'please send me a bill, I have never received a bill,'" said Moreno.
In response to that, S&WB spokesperson D'Seante Parks said, "we are resolving an issue with transfer accounts not receiving bills. We plan to have a solution early next month. It has been and continues to be a priority for us."
Cantrell also had this to say about those customers who are disputing their water bills.
"We definitely have to ensure that we are meeting them, really where they are, what they can afford to pay but, really working through their bills," said Cantrell. "Those with undisputed bills however, as you know, the Sewerage and Water Board has moved forward with collecting unpaid balances of those bills which are very necessary because we are in a cash flow problem, crisis, which could shut operations down and if that happens no one will have water."
In a statement about mistaken calculations, the utility said: "If any customer believes they are billed in error, they should call us, lodge a complaint online, or stop by our office. We have added hours this Saturday, August 4, from 9 a.m. to noon at both of our customer service offices and our call center to accommodate the influx of customers resolving their bills."