Council members grill Sewerage and Water Board

Dave Cohen, WWL First News early edition
November 07, 2017 - 12:44 pm

New leaders of the Sewerage and Water Board today admitted to vast shortcomings in the organization, as they presented a plan modernize and fix things to the New Orleans City Council.

"We know that this organization failed," Interim Emergency Director Paul Rainwater told the council.

He says the failures occurred on multiple levels.

"In billing, on what happened on August the fifth, in a boil water advisory," he explained. "There is no doubt there has been failure here."

Councilman Jason Williams was critical of the agency for not doing a better job with tracking its billing and trying to prevent errors. He related the story of a New Orleans woman whose bills had suddenly increased.

"One woman in particular, Ruthie Jefferson, elderly, her 12-year-old grandson, her 7-year-old grandson, and a 4-month-old, living in a home, received a bill for $7,000. They demanded a $2,000 payment, they would not accept a partial payment, and by the time she stopped me on Baronne Street and we talked about it, her water had been cut off and she had to borrow water from her neighbors house and carry it over so that these three children and herself could bathe," said Williams. "That is completely unacceptable in a city like New Orleans and it is completely unacceptable in an American city.

"What can we do to right that ship?" Williams asked.

Rainwater said that the plan includes cutting the top heavy management, empowering field level managers to hire the right people and giving pay raises to the hard working employees in the field.

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