What Should You Do with a Sewerage and Water Board Bill?
by Kenneth Cooper
I received my neighbor’s Sewerage & Water Board bill in the mail last weekend. I thought about bringing it over to her. But she may have been having a good day, so I reconsidered. I looked down at what was in my hand, a rectangular 9 ½ X 4 inch envelope, small, but possibly packed with layers of incompetence inside. I asked my wife if I should bring the neighbor her bill or let her enjoy her weekend. We walked two blocks to deliver the bill.
The Canadian company the Sewerage & Water Board bought software from to process bills in New Orleans said none of its other 200 clients are having problems processing bills. Some Sewerage & Water Board employees said the software system sucks. The Sewerage & Water Board said the software system doesn’t suck and blamed their employees instead. In internal SWB emails, managers talked about how employees just “weren’t getting it” when it came to understanding how to properly use the software. Some employees said they weren’t trained right and that’s why they’re just were not getting it. But in more internal emails, management talked about bringing in tutors to help employees adapt. And back and forth it goes. At a City Council meeting last Monday, the Canadian company said the Sewerage & Water Board never formally told them that they were having problems processing bills. The Sewerage & Water Board responded by saying oh yes we did and then provided proof showing that oh yes they did. The Canadian company is no longer taking calls from the press.
This may have been the first bill my neighbor has gotten in months. I wonder if I should have sold it to her. It was kind of thick to be a simple bill. Either she owed a lot of money or there was an apology letter inside, or maybe even one of those inaccurate refunds the Sewerage & Water Board has been giving out. I got an invoice from the Sewerage & Water Board saying I owed them a $100. The only reason I knew it was from the Sewerage & Water Board was because it said so on the envelope. The invoice had no letterhead and looked like it was typed on Word.
The Canadian company said the Sewerage & Water Board is having billing problems because Sewerage and Water Board employees screwed up the algorithms the software uses to estimate bills, algorithms being used because there supposedly aren’t enough meter readers on the street. Maybe just maybe, there’d be more meter readers on the street if the Sewerage & Water Board wasn’t having so much trouble collecting its money. In a statement, the Sewerage & Water Board’s executive director said in 6 months customers can have confidence that the bills they’re receiving are accurate. 6 months. In 6 months we’ll have gone through Christmas, New Years, Mardi Gras, Easter, and will be in the midst of peak crawfish season. Until then, should we expect incompetence and inaccuracies to reign?
The late great Fred Sanford when receiving an erroneous bill once told his son, Lamont the dummy, to put the bill back in the mail. I wonder when my neighbor got hers if she wished I had done the same.