Posted: Jan 21, 2014 4:46 PM by Chris Nakamoto
Updated: Jan 21, 2014 6:49 PM
ST. GABRIEL- Hundreds of thousands of dollars are owed to the City of St. Gabriel for unpaid sewer fees. According to figures provided to the News 2 Investigative Unit, nearly one third of the residents don't pay their sewer bills.
Currently there are 874 active sewer accounts in the city. At least 310 of those are delinquent. The amount owed to the city exceeds 350 million dollars.
"I am one of those people," Joyce Jones said.
Jones has not paid her sewer bill since 2012. She has been unemployed and fell on tough times.
"It's not the city's fault," Jones said. "You not paying your bill, you can't hold the city responsible for everything that goes wrong."
Jones doesn't blame anyone but herself. Mayor Lionel Johnson said the problem gets worse year after year.
"Currently, we collect about $128,000 in sewer fees, but it takes over $1 million to operate the sewer system so we run a deficit in that area," Johnson said.
The City of St. Gabriel charges $15 per household for sewer fees. It charges $30 to $275 for businesses. The problem is, the City of St. Gabriel runs the sewer and the parish operates the water. Currently, the City of St. Gabriel is working with the parish on a cooperative endeavor agreement to shut off service to the people who don't pay their bills.
"Only thing it will do is make other people pay more out of their pocket," St. Gabriel resident Oscar Williams said.
Jones said she plans on paying what she owes when she gets the money. She wants other people not to judge her, until they've walked in her shoes.
"If they can do theirs, be thankful," Jones said.
The Legislative Auditor recommended that the City of St. Gabriel make changes. Another issue the state raised involved the purchase of vehicles outside of the public bid process. A Chevrolet Tahoe was purchased for the Police Chief recently for $30,000, but only one bid was secured. The Mayor said policies have been changed so that doesn't happen again.