NEW ORLEANS -- It will take a little while longer for Mayor Mitch Landrieu to know exactly why parts of the city flooded after strong thunderstorms on July 22 and Aug. 5.
A selection committee, made up of City Council members, on Friday decided to allow more time for more companies to bid on the $500,000 after-action report the mayor ordered in the storm’s wake since one company responded to the first call.
Councilmembers Jason Williams, Stacy Head and Nadine Ramsey said they were uneasy about having no time to review the lone proposal from Houston-based ABS Group and were leery of awarding the contract since the group has written previous reports on the Sewerage & Water Board’s operations.
“People who grade their own papers, they don't look the same as when the teacher grades it,” Williams said.
Head added that she's concerned about getting a report that says nothing more than the S&WB’s infrastructure is old and, in some cases, deteriorating. “That's captain obvious,” she said.
Landrieu ordered the report to find out what issues existed at the S&WB during the floods. Since then, officials have said a number of pumps were inoperable, logs from the S&WB have shown some pumps weren't powered on until hours after the rain stopped and a power-generating turbine broke days later, leaving just one of five working.
City officials on Friday told the council members that they reached out to 13 companies between Aug. 14 and when the request for proposals closed Aug. 21. Most said they could not respond within a week.
Chief Administrative Office Jeff Hebert said it was “very unusual” to get one response.
Williams asked if the city reached out to international companies, including any in the Netherlands, which also has had to learn to live with water, and what the answers were. Hebert said some companies there were contacted.
“We tried to tell you what to do 12 years ago, you ignored us,” Head said jokingly about their response.
Requests for proposals will be accepted for the next 21 days, the council members decided, and they will have a week to review any proposals.
Whoever is awarded the contract will also have to report to the council, in addition to the mayor, as a way to be more transparent.
“We don't want these people to be beholden to anyone,” Head said.