“Everytime we dig up a street, there’s a bad water leak we discover.”

That’s a fun fact from the city’s Dept of Public Works. Wanna hear another one. The same DPW only pays $16.32 an hour to dig up those streets and clean out the drain lines and catch basins. Yes, $16.32 an hour for one of the most essential jobs of the city. That = $652.80 for a standard work week. You can ring up groceries at Walmart for around the same amount of money. That’s another fun fact a rep from the Dept of Public Works revealed during a meeting with the City Council’s Public Works Committee last week. “Our biggest competitor,” she said, “unfortunately is Walmart.”

The next fun fact should be obvious. DPW is understaffed. Well, understaffed is an understatement. Actually, DPW doesn’t even have half the employees it needs. When asked how many employees are dedicated to cleaning the drain lines and catch basins, the rep said 27. When asked how many more are needed, the rep said about 30.

Flooding is the Number 1 Problem in the City

To be clear, in the city that flooding has not forgot, there are only 27 people being paid $16.32 an hour to man the front lines of drainage. This has led to the DPW not knowing exactly what is going on with the system it’s tasked with maintaining. This fun fact was revealed in their own words when questioned.

“How many basins are not allowing water into the drainage system,” Councilman Oliver Thomas asked during the meeting. The response from one of the reps was, “That is an unknown.” Next it was Councilman Joe Giarrusso’s turn. “What is the reliable expectation of how many catch basins will be cleaned this year,” he asked. The answer from the same rep was we don’t know. Councilman Thomas then stated the obvious: “That’s why we’re stuck with the same broken system.”

The more the meeting went on the more it devolved into the fun facts that kept on giving. Did you know that the catch basins are a surface-level concern when it comes to draining? The deeper concern is the 27-inch drain lines that feed into the larger drainage system. Apparently, those lines have also been neglected. And just like with the basins, the Dept doesn’t have a clear idea of what’s going on with them either.

“Why isn’t there more focus on these 27-inch drain lines,” Councilman Thomas asked. The answer was that DPW has run through its contracting budget.
Related: Oliver Thomas Questions Need for State Police

Also, in typical New Orleans fashion, there’s a layer of bureaucracy involved. DPW is limited in how much control it has over drainage. Once the drain lines reach a certain point, they become the S&WB’s responsibility.  Yes, that S&WB. The one that almost blew up a neighborhood. And the same one that Governor Landry looked into  taking over. Imagine the lack of coordination between the state and the city that could follow.

Stay tuned for the next meeting. Maybe DPW will update us on the status of the neutral grounds we’ll all have to park our cars on.

4 thoughts on “Public Works Doesn’t Know How Many Drains Are Clogged”
  1. Years of broken management of city leaders and no progression towards a better New Orleans. That’s one of the reason I’m relocating. I can no longer tolerate these excuses. It is too costly to live in this city with these taxes and lack of progression. I’ll come back to party but nothing else.

  2. Regarding blocked drains: Perhaps Public Works should look into stopping the grass cutters, both public and private, from blowing the grass cuttings and leaves into the drains. Seems like a no brainer to me.

    1. I’ve been saying that for decades now, blowing grass clippings into the streets is commonplace now, even Park & Parkways employees do it regularly.

  3. First, Walmart also does not have enough employees. Neither does McDonald’s, NOPD, OPSO, Ford Motor company, NORD — you name it. I was just in the Netherlands. One of the waste management directors complained that he doesn’t have enough employees. The pay in the Netherlands sucks too. The civil engineer who runs a small water management system earns $40K. They also pay more taxes. So, what I’m really saying is our problems are not unique. i think the difference is that in the Netherlands there is always an adult in the room. Someone is speaking truth to power at all times. They don’t just blame the next guy. Questions are cool. But this council needs to issue a directive with money. Directive 1: Take an inventory of all the catch basins by January 1, 2025. Here is money to let a contract. Give an update weekly on the progress in writing or in person. Directive 2: Give communities that clean their catch basins money to hire people in the community to clean them with oversight from the city. Directive 3: Direct the civil service board to adjust their pay schedules based on a city of our size annnnndddddd stature. Like we don’t have a large population, but we’re very significant to the entire state like New York City and San Francisco and Las Vegas are to their states. Directive 4: Use real information to provide affordable housing to city workers. Poor is not just someone with flies and swollen belly anymore. Folks in the USA put up a great appearance and are really down on their luck. A single person making $50K or less should be eligible for housing subsidy. Quick recent true story — I applied for an affordable housing program and I was told that I don’t make enough money. Yep. That’s what I was told. (FYI- I work 2 jobs kinda and I only had them use funds from the fulltime job). Now here is the other reality and we can just go back to number 1 there are not enough decent contractors to perform quality work. They leave your neighborhood in disarray for months and your calls for them to do better is gone unheard. One community I know of is also left without bus service, because they “find” more issues than they fix in a day. So, the street is left with a hole and the bus claims it cannot get around. And instead of them finding another route in the community they just bypass it. And of course, because there are not enough workers no one puts out a sign saying where the bus is rerouted. In order to catch a different bus not in the neighborhood the residents would have to cross a 6 lane highway or over a bridge over I-10. And if it rains slightly the community is flooded. Let’s not forget the State of Louisiana and their part in this mess. Let’s not put in the rearview mirror the money that isn’t collected by 501 c(3) or other ngo entitiies, because of exemptions. This is not a DPW/City Council/ SWBNO issue. All of us have to come to a table prepared by the adults. And when you come to the table (here’s looking at you DPW and LADOTD) and make promises keep them. And if you can’t keep them say why. But many of these agencies – non profits, NGO’s, private, city departments, state departments, feds etc etc – come to the table eat all the hog mawls and the chittlins, and the collard greens and mac and cheese and the sweet potatoes and the chicory and chantilly cake and the remoulade sauce, gravy, salt and pepper and the hot sauce and then never wash a dish, not pick up a plate, nothing, not even push in your own chair. Louisiana needs to start electing at least one adult at every level. We’re worried about who the mayor is screwing and having lunch with. The state is worried about what kind of sex dolls people are buying and trying to control women’s bodies. The federal government is on the same foolishness. None of this concerns a failing infrastructure or changing climate. And the non adults are allowed to sit at the table and make decisions about what to do with the money.

    Back to me off my soap box — The city of New Orleans needs a 10 year vision that all of us work on together. Not just the mayor and Threat and Ghasan – every citizen should have a voice and we hammer out a plan together. Codify our plan, codify the plan changing based on community needs, and put money into our plan. This would be easier if we dismantled these charter schools (because communities could meet at the schools that are in their community and then come together.)

    That’s enough from me. Let’s stop fighting and come together for a better New Orleans. Like or hate the mayor — like or hate the council — like or hate your state reps –their terms are limited and we need to plan so the next person knows what we need and expect. Where are the adults in New Orleans? Speak up.

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