Sunday, September 10, 2017

Never open anything up

So it turns out that those S&WB bills people have been complaining about recently were indeed the bullcrap we thought they were.
About 4,700 customers — roughly 3.5 percent of all S&WB accounts — were essentially charged double for the same month of service: once based on an estimate of how much water and sewer service they used and another based on an actual meter reading.

Officials do not yet know how much the overcharges amount to.

The S&WB often relies on estimates when determining how much to bill, something that Erin Burns, a spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said is caused by “a shortage of meter reading personnel and a high turnover rate in the department,” which prevent the utility from having enough staff to read each meter every month.

For the thousands of customers affected by the overbilling, an estimated bill was entered into the system just before the meter was read, leading to a double bill, Burns said in an email.

That's one way to avoid a new stormwater fee, I guess.  Any way you can raise funds is good, though, because the costs do tend to expand over there.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Sewerage & Water Board could have saved millions of dollars if it had purchased a brand new turbine to power some of the city’s most important drainage pumps, rather than spending the last five years in a costly – and so far futile – effort to repair a 1920s-era piece of equipment that it purchased, used, more than 50 years ago.

That’s WWL-TV’s conclusion after reviewing a cost analysis by one of the Sewerage & Water Board’s consultants, along with dozens of contract and billing records from the ongoing refurbishment of nettlesome Turbine No. 4.
The contract kept getting loaded up with decisions to refurbish rather than replace components. The excuses for those decisions are looking less and less credible. And, as much as we hate to give credit to Stacy Head for anything, this is a pretty good line from her that works on multiple levels.
It’s clear that the board was caught off-guard almost immediately by the difficulties fixing Turbine No. 4. At a January 2013 committee meeting, then-deputy superintendent Madeline Fong Goddard told board members, “Turbine 4 was opened up by the contractor and found to be sadly very damaged and not easily repairable.”

To which Councilwoman Stacy Head, then a member of the S&WB, interjected, “Never open anything up!” and laughed.
Well the whole can of worms is open now. That's probably less good than it seems, though.  I get the impression that we're not on a path to weeding out the corruption and inefficiency so much just contracting the corruption and inefficiency out to Veolia.  They've already moving in over there. It's probably only a matter of time before a more formal relationship is established. That might depend on who the next mayor is. But it's difficult to tell what the current candidates might think about the question.

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