Mayoral candidates discuss drainage, other S&WB issues

By Sabrina Wilson

Source: FOX 8

November 2, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) – The unexpected July and August outraged many people in the city and revealed deficiencies in the drainage system.

Come 2018, either Latoya Cantrell or Desiree Charbonnet will have a lot of say at the Sewerage and Water Board.

FOX 8’s Sabrina Wilson asked the candidates what would be the first three steps they would take as the new president of the S &WB to begin further addressing the problems.

“Well, first of all I would attend the meetings and act as the president and accordingly. Secondly, I’m going to make sure that the head of the department is a licensed professional engineer who understands the intricacies of our pumping system, that has experience doing so…number three is that we’re going to have to make sure that the Department of Public Works and Sewerage and Water Board work together,” said Charbonnet.

“What I will do firsthand, we have to ensure that we have effective leadership in place. Currently there’s an opening for a chief operating officer, chief financial officer, project manager, of course the director of the Sewerage and Water Board and then 350 vacant positions…In addition to that, it’s really about improving the communication and the interaction and working conditions between the Department of Public Works as well as the Sewerage and Water Board. They should not be living in isolation,” said Cantrell.

Given that the agency has over 300 vacancies, FOX 8 asked if they would be open to higher salaries down the road for some S&WB workers to help shore up the ranks of the agency.

“Absolutely I’m in favor of raising the wage and salaries associated with those who work for the Sewerage and Water Board. It has proven to be a hindrance to not only hiring,” Cantrell said.

“Sure, I would be, you know, money is a motivator, Sabrina, and that’s just a fact of life. What we need to do is make sure we have the people qualified to actually perform those duties, as well,” said Charbonnet.

The BGR recommended that the Sewerage and Water Board and City Hall consider a storm water fee as a potential source for drainage system funding.

The candidates were asked about their positions on that.

“Not yet, and I’ll tell you why…you know I’ve gone all across this city and there is not a place I’ve been where people support another tax or another fee. I believe until I show the citizens that the taxes that they’re paying, the monies that they’re investing in this community, they have something to show for it then will they even consider a storm water management fee.I realize we have issues with storm water management. There’s also other ways to deal with storm water management. That’s an emerging industry but you’ve got to give people something before you start asking them for money,” said Charbonnet.

“I support some level of, whether we call it fee, I definitely don’t want to call it a tax but I am in favor of working toward an initiative and a requirement that everyone in our city at some capacity puts some skin in the game, and that is looking and not ruling out our non-profit community and but looking very closely at the cost benefits, doing a cost benefits analysis because there’s not a cookie-cutter approach to this. I look at it as a sliding fee scale based on the impact, the cost benefits that are contributed by many of our stakeholders, whether they’re non-profit or not needs to be looked at.  Currently the only individuals that pay into sewerage are the homeowners, those who are paying property taxes, but those who are not they’re not paying into sewerage or drainage and this is a deficit,” so it’s going to require all of us to do some things differently, so change will have to occur, so I am committed to working with our non-profit community, our business community, of course, our residents to determine what is the best approach so that we can fill the gaps necessary to make our city safe when it floods,” said Cantrell.

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