By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer
The City Council plans to vote tomorrow on an ordinance to double residential garbage pick-up fees to $24, even though Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration still has not even started drafting new contracts with two companies to actually haul the city’s trash.
It has been six weeks since Landrieu heralded the renegotiation of the first of two garbage contracts, to save money for taxpayers. The new contracts were supposed to save money for the 2011 fiscal year, which began Jan. 1, but Landrieu’s spokesman confirmed this morning that nothing’s been committed to paper.
“We expect to have fully executed agreements with both companies in the coming days,” Ryan Berni wrote in an e-mail.
Landrieu’s office reached a handshake deal with Richard’s Disposal on Nov. 15, lowering sanitation rates from $22 to $17.99, and adding recycling. Then on Dec. 2, Metro Disposal agreed to cut its rate from $18.50 to $15.99, and add recycling.
While the city may have lowered its costs, it is raising household fees because it contends that residents have long paid below-cost in their monthly fees, with the city paying the difference out of the general fund. For example, the Department of Sanitation overspent its 2010 budget by $6.2 million, according to city records.
The council originally proposed to raise the household sanitation fee from $12 to $22 on Dec.1, but it later ceded to pressure from Landrieu to double the $12 fee to $24, and drafted a second ordinance on Dec. 8.
An attorney for Metro Disposal told The Lens in December that the contract was being held up because of technical issues about the recycling work. Berni declined to answer today whether the city will continue to pay the companies at the higher rate until the new contracts can be finalized.
* The council also plans to vote tomorrow on an ordinance to let the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority acquire abandoned or blighted property by expropriation.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilwoman Stacy Head, references Louisiana Revised Statute 19:136 and Article I of the state Constitution, which respectively allow sales of expropriated property in a fair, equitable and uniform process, as long as the expropriations have a “public purpose,” which is “necessary and useful to promote the public health and safety.”
Head’s office did not respond to inquiries about possible legal challenges to the ordinance.
* The council will also vote tomorrow to transfer $10 million to the new-founded New Orleans Recreation Commission.
Voters approved the creation of the commission in November to manage the troubled New Orleans Recreation Department, and Landrieu committed to double the agency’s budget from $5 million to $10 million.
* Councilwoman Susan Guidry is also proposing an ordinance clarifying the role of Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office.
The ordinance clarifies the four-year term of the inspector general, and how he is to be appointed by the Ethics Review Board. Former or current elected New Orleans city officials or their employees are precluded from holding the role until they have been out of their jobs for at least four years. Likewise, the inspector general is prohibited from running for office until he has been out of the job for the same period.
The Ethics Review Board also will be able to remove the inspector general from office with a two-thirds vote after a public hearing, under the terms of the ordinance.
“For many months my office has worked in cooperation with the Inspector General to clarify the legislation that I trust will continue to support transparent and efficient municipal government,” Guidry wrote in an e-mail this afternoon.
* The council had planned to amend the revenues and expenses in its 2010 budget to reflect unanticipated revenue gains and department overspending. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office has requested that the two ordinances be deferred until the numbers are firmed up — the changes will have to go before the council’s budget committee before being voted on, and its next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26.
“We are waiting for the City’s annual audit. This is a routine measure in case we need these clean-up ordinances to be passed at a later date,” Berni wrote in an e-mail this afternoon.
Still, as the ordinances stand today, the council plans to add a total of $33 million to its anticipated 2010 revenue of $462 million, and $45 million to its anticipated 2010 expenditures of $1.1 billion.
Increased revenues include $4 million more than expected from street parking meters, and $4.3 million more than expected from traffic fines and violations. On the expenses side, many city departments blew their 2010 budgets, from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office needing an extra $3.6 million to the New Orleans Police Department needing an extra $3.3 million for personal services. The Department of Sanitation overspent its budget by $6.2 million, while the Chief Administrative Office needed $8.6 million more than it originally asked for.
* Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell had planned to seek a one-year moratorium on all new alcohol permits in her council district, but the ordinance has been deferred for 60 days. Her office declined to comment on the reasons for the deferral. District D extends east from City Park down into the 9th Ward and through Gentilly to eastern New Orleans.