Residents question why S&WB is behind on pump repairs when bills keep going up

"Show us the money!" That's what New Orleans residents are demanding of the S&WB after the drainage system's disarray was revealed by a recent flood.

NEW ORLEANS -- As the thought of possible flooding continues to rise in people's minds, people like Romella Hodges are questioning what was done with money raised from Sewerage and Water Board rate hikes.

"I have a 500 dollar water bill," Hodges said.

The city council approved a major rate hike, 10 percent a year, to fix aging infrastructure back in 2012. 

Back then it was estimated, the average monthly residential bill based on 5300 gallons a month would balloon year to year from about $52.50 to $112.67, and that would generate about $583 million total.

New Orleans Pump Crisis

- The pumps weren't on - in many cases

- Damaged turbine repaired but N.O. remains vulnerable

- If S&WB bills are rising rapidly, why are pump repairs behind?

- Ex-S&WB employee: Pumps have had problems for years

- Landrieu wants private company to run S&WB for now

- Pumps run by old, complicated system

- VIDEO: Landrieu - Everybody has some responsibility for this

Councilmember Susan Guidry was on that council in 2012 and voted in favor. We asked what that money has done for the city's aging infrastructure, but she explained that measure was not designed to fix drainage.

"The rate hikes that the City Council approved in December 2012 were hikes to water and sewer rates only.  The drainage system is funded by three dedicated property tax millages that generate $53.9 million annually," Guidry said.

Councilmember Stacy Head was also on that council.  She voted against the measure; she wanted more time for review.

"The rate increase that the council passed in 2012 was not meant to fund the drainage system. The millages that we do have are inadequate. I believe we need to consider a fee charged to all properties that rely on the drainage system, which is to say all of them. It may also be time to seriously rethink how our drainage system works and who is responsible for it," Head said.

But Mayor Mitch Landrieu in his pitch to get the measure passed back then, actually did mention the issue of power in a way that may have caused some confusion. 

"I want to be very clear about this, the city is in a position of danger right now. The power plant at the Sewerage and Water Board has broken five times since Katrina," Mayor Landrieu said in an address back in 2012.

Hodges says it doesn't seem there's a clear answer as to what happened to the money raised from hikes.  But she knows she doesn't want to pay more to see change. 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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