Kenner has taken the initial steps to create a city sewer department, a move that could bring the service, which is currently outsourced to a private contractor, in-house.
Sewer services are now provided by Veolia Water North America, but Mayor Mike Yenni said the charter allows the city to create any department it deems necessary, and an ordinance introduced by the city council last week does just that.
Ordinances brought up for introduction are not discussed at meetings, and Yenni said there are many aspects of the issue he is not ready to discuss.
But he did say that even if the city decides to continue to outsource the contract, which is up for renegotiation next summer and will cost the city roughly $5.6 million this year, having the scope of services and responsibilities spelled out in a city ordinance is the right way to go.
“I think it needs to be created by ordinance, whether it’s run by an outside firm or whether we bring it in house,” Yenni said.
The current arrangement of contracting the service dates back to 1995, during the administration of Louis Congemi.
Yenni said a sewer department would provide greater oversight for a system that was plagued by leaks and backups and was cited by the state several times since 2004 by the Department of Environmental Quality.
Since then, Kenner has embarked on an $80 million overhaul of its sewer infrastructure, consolidating treatment plants, rebuilding lift stations and replacing lines.
Yenni said the city’s public works department spends a significant amount of time dealing with sewer-related issues even without being officially tasked with the job.
“It needs more oversight,” Yenni said. “I need accountability on something as sensitive as sewerage.”
Yenni said Veolia has stepped up its efforts in recent years, assigning a technical advisor in its efforts to address the issues that got the city cited by the state.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.