Frustrated residents skeptical of claims that catch basins being cleared at rapid pace

Rudolph Dupart tried for years to get the city to fix a catch basin near his 7th Ward home.The repairs were finally made -- but only after police hauled a dead body out of it a few months ago.

NEW ORLEANS -- Rudolph Dupart tried for years to get the city to fix a catch basin near his 7th Ward home.

The repairs were finally made -- but only after police hauled a dead body out of it a few months ago.

So he was skeptical when city officials said Tuesday they are working as fast as they can to repair or clear as many catch basins as possible.

“I don’t know about that,” he said in response to City Councilwoman Stacy Head who told him other catch basins in his neighborhood will soon get attention “come hell or high water.”

Head made that pledge during a meeting of the council’s Public Works, Sanitation and Environmental Committee. Among the items on the agenda was a presentation from Col. Mark Jernigan, director of public works, who gave a report on catch basin maintenance after the flooding on July 22.

Jernigan said there is $6 million budgeted for catch basin replacements and repairs, cleanouts and related work for 2017. Of that, $300,000 is available right now. He said DPW is trying to secure another $2.7 million for one-time Hurricane Isaac repairs and $3 million from BP settlement money.

So far this year, Jernigan said, DWP has cleaned in front of nearly 4,000 catch basins, unclogged another 3,300, flushed more than 61 miles of drains and replaced 75 catch basin covers.

Another 75 covers would be replaced by the end of the week, Jernigan added. “Hallelujah!” Head shouted in response.

The city had 3,374 open service requests about catch basins as of July 1. Of those, 2,478 were for clogged catch basins, while the remainder are for missing or damaged catch basins. Another 64 tickets on average are added each month, Jernigan said. The backlog of repair requests, he said, has dropped from nearly 4,000 in mid-2015.

Head, who recently launched a campaign to pressure the city into performing more infrastructure repairs, showed Jernigan with dozens of pictures of damaged or flooded catch basins. She asked him to let the council know if DPW needed more money since most of the budget for this year is made up of money that is not readily available.

Dupart said he was frustrated to see Bourbon Street being ripped up and repaired and new streetcar lines installed while neighborhood continue to flood because of issues with catch basins.

“I’d like to know if he wants this in his neighborhood, if he wants to live like that,” Dupart said as he handed Jernigan a picture of his flooded street. “On top of that, my property tax is going up.”

He said he is frustrated after years of asking for help. “You talk to these people, it’s like talking to that,” he said as he knocked on a wood table.

Others from across the city shared his views.

Rita Lagrande, who lives in Lakeview, said she was told the neighborhoods notoriously bumpy alleys aren’t being grated right now since DPW crews are working on catch basins, something she disputed. “We don’t see any work in Lakeview on our catch basins.”

Meanwhile, Dennis Thompson, who lives Uptown said he has no gripes about clogged catch basins on his street -- since there are none.

“So every rain … creates standing water,” he said. “If we’re going to be a 21st century city, we really need to solve 18th-century problems.”

“We are doing more than we’ve ever done before,” Jernigan told the meeting.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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