Newell: Sounds like Sewerage & Water Board operates like a flea market

Newell Normand
January 30, 2019 - 6:46 am

Among all their other problems, New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board is struggling to pay its bills.  Here are some of Newell Normand's HOT TAKES about what's going on with an operation in crisis:

  • Last year, New Orleans spent an exorbitant amount of money dealing with emergency repairs and to ensure that the system was in place to remove water from the streets into underground pipes, the canals, and ultimately out into Lake Pontchartrain.
  • What Executive Director Ghassan Korban said was the Sewerage & Water Board is in financial straits.  They owe contractors almost $33 million in unpaid invoices.  Missed payments have become so bad that officials are now talking to contractors to keep them working and, in some cases, making partial payments.
  • Tens of millions of dollars in reserves were poured into a spree of emergency repairs after flooding in the city in August 2017.  They're down from 227 days of cash to 67 days.  That’s scary.
  • More and more, this is sounding like a flea market mentality.  Now we have huge contractors debating whether or not they even want to do work with the City.  We're putting a number of companies in distress, because of our inability to pay them.
  • What I find a little disturbing is that it would seem to me that the City and the collective group of leaders would get together to figure out the programs we've decided to fund this year and put them into two categories:  essential and nonessential services.
  • To me, it seems like we should take decisive action to move as much money from nonessential services to essential services.  We need to deal with the crisis we have at the present time.
  • I was struck by the comment that we are pivoting from emergency mode to more normal operations for the first time in over a year.  Really?  How can that possibly be, when you can't pay your contractors to do the work necessary to maintain the system?
  • I don't understand that mentality.  I don't get it.  As they continue to deal with the demands of the payments for contractors, that is not a normal operation.  That's anything but normal.

Listen to Newell’s commentary on the S&WB crisis. 

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