Consultancy UtiliWorks dries up concerns regarding ‘abnormally high’ New Orleans water bills

26 February 2019 3 min. read

UtiliWorks, a consulting team hired by the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) to investigate residents’ complaints about higher-than-usual water bills has revealed its findings to the city’s mayor, Latoya Cantrell, and the agency’s board of directors. The results? Everything’s fine. 

UtiliWorks has already suggested a few minor changes the S&WB could make to improve the situation, such as repairing or replacing those meters that have become unreadable, reducing the number of skipped meter readings, and changing the billing estimation process to make it more accurate. Overall, however, things are seemingly peachy. 

“We did an analysis of a sample of bills, and we looked at not just the bills for a one-month period, but looked back at them historically,” Nicole Griffin, of UtiliWorks, said in an interview with WVUE, a Fox-affiliated New Orleans-area television station.

The review focused on software installed two years ago by the Cogsdale Corporation, and concluded the company was correctly billing customers. It also revealed that meter readings were very accurate, and that nearly 20% of meters are unable to be read in any given month for reasons such as scratched lenses, and the inability to locate them.

“I’m pleased that we’re making progress, the billing is getting better, but we’ve also got to deal with the situation of people having the resources to pay what they owe,” Jay H. Banks, a city councilman who sits on the S&WB’s board of directors, said. There are currently more than 24,000 delinquent accounts and more than 6,000 disputed accounts, according to the board.  

Cities regularly hire consultancies for assistance in issues within the public sector, with varying results. In late January, for example, a consultant’s misestimate greatly hindered a San Diego, California public park’s plans for a redesign, potentially costing the city millions of dollars. 

Also in California, the city of Santa Barbara last month hired economic development and real estate advisory firm Kosmont Companies to strategize ways in which to attract more shoppers to the city’s central business district. The plan will focus on economic development, transportation and infrastructure, parking, pedestrian experience, regulations, and signage, as well as include recommendations on business retention, cutting down vacancy levels, and land-use planning, helping identify the right mix of retail, office, and residential areas. 

Cedar Falls, Iowa, meanwhile, hired consulting firm WGI to provide solutions to the city’s lack of parking spaces in and around the city, to a comparable degree of success, with provided suggestions of more parking spaces, a dedicated parking structure or parking garage, and low-rate paid parking in city lots.