NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans City Council held the second special meeting in two weeks today, August 17, 2017, at 2 p.m. to declare an official state of emergency, thus allowing the adoption of ordinances to appropriate emergency funds. Additionally, the Council considered motions and received additional updates on the status of City response efforts in light of the current Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) crisis.
The Council heard status updates on turbines, pumps and generators from City representatives including Paul Harang, Director of City Council Relations for the Mayor. The first presentation detailed maintenance and status reports for the City's pumps and generators, including the pump status tracker, which is updated daily and available on the S&WB website here. The City is providing a flood recovery resource center to impacted residents and businesses at the Corpus Christi-Epiphany Resource Center located at 2200 St. Bernard Ave.
Next, the Council heard from the Interim Director of the Department of Public Works, Dani Galloway, who spoke on the status of the City's catch basins. The presentation detailed the many conversations that have taken place within the Department of Public Works over the past several weeks to evaluate the status of the City's 65,000 catch basins and determine how best to clear them. The City is requesting $22 million to fund the catch basin maintenance project, which will include two separate contracts for catch basin assessment and cleaning and catch basin minor and major repairs. They proposed to use the information from 311 calls to locate, assess and repair clogged or broken catch basins.
"This is a good and comprehensive plan, especially given the short amount of time you had to put it together," said Council President Jason Williams. "But the only way I can support this budget allocation is if we have a written commitment to prioritize those high-risk areas throughout the City that were recently underwater. We need to look at more than just past 311 calls and be proactive about areas that are low-lying, or near pumps with potentially limited capacity, now and in the future."
At the request of the administration, the Council voted to adopt a resolution declaring an official state of emergency. The declaration of emergency allowed the Council to waive the requirement that ordinances must lie over until the next Council meeting. With the standard protocols waived, the Council then introduced and approved budget ordinances totaling $11,950,000 for Department of Public Works, Homeland Security and Chief Administrative Office operating costs, which include drainage repairs, underpass warning systems, emergency protective measures and a root cause and analysis report. The decisive action of the Council will allow the repair plans to be enacted a week sooner, rather than waiting until the next regularly scheduled Council meeting on August 24.
Additionally, the Council deferred its vote on two motions to approve the Mayor's reappointment of Joseph Peychaud and appointment of Stacy Horn-Koch as members of the S&WB Board of Directors. Given recent resignations, eventual appointments or reappointments will be necessary to ensure the board has the required quorum to conduct business. In the meantime, Peychaud will serve as a member of the board until a decision by the Council has been made. The Council will reconsider these appointments to ensure those on the board are qualified and equipped to deal with the issues at hand.
The Council will continue to work with the administration, Sewerage and Water Board, Army Corps of Engineers, and all other involved parties in finding the best possible solutions to address the current crisis and ensure sustainability of the system going forward.