Water board delays vote for rate increase at mayor's request

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 18 at 5:42 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board to delay voting on the rate increase proposal for up to two months, and give the public a better explanation of the need for it.

"They're not inclined to give you money just to keep doing what you are doing,” Landrieu said.

The board has been considering a major rate increase spread out over five years that would almost double your current water bill.

Even at this meeting, there was opposition.

"This is just outrageous, just to live in the city, the privilege, and to be ripped off point blank in the face," said New Orleans resident Steve Donahue.

To the mayor that illustrated his point that people don't really understand how badly the system needs major work.

"The network is leaking 40 percent of its water,” Landrieu said. “People may have forgotten this, but I hope they didn't, but the power plant has suffered multiple outages, one of which resulted in a boil water order."

So the mayor urged the water board to make sure they have reduced the rate increase as much as possible by streamlining operations, obtaining every federal dollar available, improving customer service, overhauling the agency's governing structure and making sure everyone fully understands.

"This is what it looks like now, this is what it's gonna look like when it is finished,” Landrieu said. “This is how much it's gonna cost you, and this is how much we're gonna get from it."

But the mayor said there are also things the public should know about, like the economic benefits of the huge program to rebuild their city's water and sewer systems.

"If we're gonna rebuild this massive amount of infrastructure in the city of New Orleans, to use it as a way to create jobs, that will then put money back into the economy,” Landrieu said.

"Everyone needs to feel great confidence in what is going to be done with that money, how it is going to be used, the integrity and the accountability to the ratepayers,” said Suzanne Mestayer of the New Orleans Business Council.

The board agreed to delay the vote and re-examine the issue.

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