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N.O. businesses wary of proposed sewerage and water rate hikes

Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Posted on July 17, 2012 at 10:11 PM

NEW ORLEANS — To keep up with growing demand, NOLA Brewing Company is seeing its water usage soar.

“Around a thousand barrels a month,” said Kirk Coco, president of the NOLA Brewing Company.
Coco said that adds up to about 31,000 gallons of water each month used to brew several styles of beer at their production facility on Tchoupitoulas.

That’s why Coco is paying close attention to the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board’s proposal to nearly double rates by 2016.

The board is scheduled to vote on its plan Wednesday, although Mayor Mitch Landrieu is urging members to rework the proposal for another 30-60 days.

“I’m obviously concerned because my business uses a lot of water to make our product,” Coco said. “We’d be looking at doubling from about $2,000 a month in water bills to about $4,000, which could increase the price of our product.”

But with an aging water system and seemingly endless leaks like this across the city, officials say rate hikes are necessary.

It’s a point they’ve made at public meetings on the issue.

“Its important, very important that water systems throughout North America are keeping up with current technology, current rules, and regulations,” said S&WB Executive Director Marcia St. Martin, at a meeting in January.

Some say a doubling of rates, though, puts too much burden on the backs of customers.
“There’s gotta be a better way than this,” said Ben Davis, owner of Treme Dry Cleaners.
Another business owner depending heavily on water, Davis said it costs about $1,000 a month to run his laundromat and dry cleaning operation.

“I’m already paying way too much, and now they talking about doubling it, that’s going to hurt the business,” Davis said.

Coco said he wants to them to make repairs.
“I mean, we see leaks all over the city almost every day you drive. But, my biggest concern is, by doubling this rate, are we going to see those things improve, or are we just gonna be paying extra money into the Sewerage & Water Board system?”

In his letter to the Sewerage & Water Board, Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote, “I agree with the S&WB’s expert consultants, the citizen’s task force, the Bureau of Governmental Research and others: a rate increase of some kind is necessary and inevitable.”

But he added, “I am concerned that proposed rate increase as it currently stands is not structured appropriately.”

If the S&WB passes its plan Wednesday, the issue would then head to the city council next.

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