S&WB Carrollton (copy)

Advocate photo by Matthew Hinton -- The Sewerage & Water Board's Carrollton plant.

The company that created the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board’s trouble-plagued billing software now says efforts to fix widespread problems with the system were “well underway” before the City Council contacted the company this summer, walking back comments one of the firm’s employees made earlier this week.

According to a joint statement from Cogsdale Corp. and the S&WB, which was released by the utility on Wednesday, weekly meetings aimed at resolving problems with overcharges and other issues have been held since March.

The statement appeared to contradict comments Cogsdale’s director of professional services, Judy Wells, made during a hearing before the City Council’s Public Works Committee on Monday.

During that meeting, Wells was asked several times by council members when the firm first learned of the “crisis” of overcharges and other problems S&WB customers have suffered in recent years. Wells initially said the company first heard about the problems through media reports and then repeatedly said the company was not “formally” notified about the problems until a letter from the council this summer.

Wednesday's joint statement did not explain the discrepancy between those accounts.

S&WB customers have been struggling with a litany of persistent problems since Cogsdale's software was rolled out in October 2016. The utility has sent out thousands of invoices that often involve massive overcharges, billed customers twice for the same water usage, failed to send bills to new accounts and miscalculated the size of refunds that were supposed to fix past problems. 

According to Wednesday's statement, Cogsdale and the S&WB have been in “constant communication” for four years, two years before the new billing system was rolled out.

The firm sent representatives to the S&WB offices in February, and utility officials “repeated to Cogsdale that they were facing several challenges with the billing system,” according to the statement. That led to weekly meetings starting in March that “continue to this day,” according to the statement.

“Cogsdale and (the S&WB) would like to clarify that they have a longstanding, working partnership that will continue until reliability in the billing system and the processes by which (S&WB) staff engage the billing system have restored the public’s trust,” according to the statement. “This was well underway prior to the present council contacting Cogsdale directly.”

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​