New Orleans OKs Emergency Funds For Drainage Crisis

The New Orleans City Council

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans City Council on Thursday approved requests for emergency cash to help clean and repair thousands of drainage catch basins, hoping to prevent future flooding the likes of which took many residents by surprise earlier this month.
         The council, during a special meeting, approved $22 million in emergency funding for the Department of Public Works to handle the maintenance and repair of 15,000 catch basins and $3 million for any other drainage emergencies brought on by a tropical storm or hurricane. The move comes as the Gulf Coast enters peak hurricane season.
         The department's interim director, Dani Galloway, told the council the money is only a small part of what's needed to fix city drainage issues.
"It would take millions more to address the 65,000 catch basins in the city," she said. "In fact, we would need about $50 million to assess the whole system by running CCTV through all of our catch basins to see what's going on down there."
         Clogged catch basins contributed to flooding on July 22 and Aug. 5 that led to property and vehicle damage in multiple neighborhoods.
         "I need your commitment to prioritize areas where we have diminished pump capacity and areas that flooded recently. Is that fair?" asked Council President Jason Williams.
         "That's fair," said Galloway, who's held the position for just nine days.
         The City Council was also told that the city's five vacuum trucks used to clear catch basins would be in service Friday. Galloway said the city plans to purchase a sixth vacuum truck for $350,000. One of its trucks dates to 2003 and is "constantly in the repair shop," she said.
         The city will issue two emergency bids for the catch basin maintenance and repair program.
         The winning bidder of the $7 million assessment and cleaning contract will need to complete the work within 120 days. There is a $1,000-per-day penalty for any work that remains past that timeframe. Fifteen-thousand catch basins are expected to be assessed and cleaned under the contract.
         The catch basin repair contract is budgeted at $13 million and will need to be completed within one year.
         – by AP Reporter Chevel Johnson

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