Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head has concerns over a proposed rate hike by the Orleans Parish Sewerage &Water Board.

Head says she's concerned an effort's being made to rush through a huge rate increase for Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board customers without sufficient public input.

'It is apparently going to go for a vote on Thursday despite the fact that we haven't had any public hearings on it,' Head said.

What she describes as a 'rushed public hearing' is being held Wednesday at 2 p.m. But she said the proposed rate hike for residential and business customers amounts to $583 million, or an increase of 10 percent a year every year for eight years.

'The public is not terribly aware, which is why I am trying to let the public know that this is coming,' Head said.

Head said something of this magnitude calls for a series of public hearings, and she said there is no reason to rush this.

'There is no obligation. There's nothing looming that we won't be able to pay if we defer it for two weeks or four weeks to allow the holidays to go by and public hearings to take place,' she said.

Meanwhile, the water board's special counsel, Gerard Victor, has fired off a letter to the inspector general saying '... the OIG's authority over the Sewerage &Water Board of New Orleans is questionable.'

That comes in response to a letter from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who said he has deep concerns about potential fraud and mismanagement of the additional revenue a rate hike would provide.

Quatrevaux cited a series of questionable issues involving water board finances, and he said the water board's risk of financial mismanagement was 'second only to an entity where a criminal investigation' was already underway.

P> Eyewitness News asked Mayor Mitch Landrieu if he thinks the New Orleans Office of Inspector General has authority over the water board.

P> In response, his spokesman said, 'the mayor believes that the S&WB is subject to oversight from the City Council and the inspector general. To the extent that there is a legal disagreement, the mayor supports legislative changes to clarify the issue.'


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