NEW ORLEANS -- With the recent floods exposing a long list of problems at the Sewerage and Water Board, the agency's obscure board of directors is suddenly in the spotlight – and to some extent – on the hot seat.
Some of those tensions were on display at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the board, starting with the precarious composition of the board: the 11-member panel is down to six people due to two resignations since the Aug. 5 flooding and some older unfilled vacancies.
Longtime member Alan Arnold, one of two appointees from the city’s Board of Liquidation, said at the meeting that he, too, is considering resigning amid the turmoil.
If Arnold steps down, there would be no quorum to conduct business.
“I only have eight months left on a four-year term and it's been a trying time,” Arnold said. “And I've had many, many people call me and wonder, why are you still doing it? It's not easy. It's not easy. It can be contentious at times. So I'm wondering at my age, why do I want to keep up the fight?”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged Arnold to remain on the board long enough to find a replacement, especially now that major problems with the agency have been exposed and the mayor has vowed to take a hands-on role in finding solutions.
After the meeting, Arnold said he would stay, for now, but is seeking some assurances that he will be listened to and that his ideas will be considered. Arnold has been one of the few board members to demand answers to tough questions posed to the agency’s staff.
Some cushion on keeping a quorum could come by week’s end.
At a special City Council meeting scheduled for Thursday to address the “current Sewerage and Water Board crisis,” the council is expected to ratify two more appointees to the board, guaranteeing a quorum regardless of what Arnold decides.
Landrieu has tapped Joseph Peychaud, a veteran board member, for reinstatement to another four-year term. He also nominated Stacy Horn-Koch to replace Kimberly Thomas, who left her seat in January.