In the Arena: Sewerage and Water Board billing update

NEW ORLEANS -- The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans wants delinquent customers to pay up.

"We do have about 17,000 accounts that are delinquent, that we announced recently that we are moving forward with the normal collections process on those," Acting Executive Director of the S&WB Jade Brown Russell said during her appearance on WGNO's In the Arena with John Young.

"Those are not disputed accounts," she pointed out.

Those 17,000 undisputed delinquent accounts add up to $21 million in uncollected revenue.

For customers who are disputing their bills, Brown-Russell says the S&WB is trying to make the process faster, including the creation of teams to clear up backlogs and expedite dispute claims.

"We are also making available the opportunity for administrative hearing officers," said Brown-Russell. "So that, if we disagree with the customer and the customer disagrees with us, they can work those things out with an administrative hearing officer."

Going forward, Brown-Russell says the S&WB plans to hire more meter readers.

"We've got to get to the point where we are reading meters every month. And, we strayed away from that," she said.

She hopes to get all of the changes in motion by the beginning of September, when the new director Ghassan Khorban takes over.

"I think our goal between now and then is to make sure that we are delivering him an agency that is in a position where we can move forward as an agency on issues of billing, of hiring, on infrastructure," said Brown-Russel. "So, what we are trying to do is just prepare the foundation for him to come in and do some great work."

In the Arena with John Young airs Sunday morning on WGNO at 6:30 a.m.