SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Almost halfway through a mammoth project to rebuild Shreveport’s crumbling infrastructure, the soaring price tag is giving some people sticker shock.
It has already meant higher water and sewer bills for citizens which will keep rising for at least another 3 years. Beyond that is the big question.
After repeated raw sewage spills in Shreveport, in 2009 The EPA turned to the Justice Department for help.
The city eventually negotiated a 12 year plan to repair and replace the city's crumbling water and sewer systems, signing a consent decree in 2014.
Shreveport City Councilman John Nickelson told us he was one of several council members who got an update on the consent decree work.
“The initial estimate for the cost of all the consent decree work that’s being done on the city’s water and sewer system was about $350 million,” says Nickleson.
Now 5 years later, Nickelson said the briefing he received this week was sobering.“We’ve already spent $425 million and then we’ve only completed about 40 percent of the work.”
Fellow council member LeVette Fuller was also briefed on the situation, saying “I don’t want people to believe the sky is falling. But I do want people to have a realistic idea of what’s going on.”
However authorities remind us that original price tag came long before digging ever got underway. These new numbers come from the new administration of Mayor Adrian Perkins down at government plaza.
City spokesman Ben Riggs explained that in a worst-case scenario, the city could be forced to spend another $700 million from this point forward.
That would make the overall consent decree project add up to a new grand total of $1.1 billion. Riggs said that’s exactly why they’re asking the U.S. Justice Department to possibly extend that deadline beyond 2026.
Water and sewer bill rate increases, over 10 years, through 2022, pay for the consent decree work.
Riggs said that can pay up to $650 million of the overall 12 year program.
“First thing is let’s do everything we possibly can to reduce that cost,” said Riggs who added the justice department approval to hire a new program manager could also better control costs of the entire project.
He added that creating a division chief job could help find waste and redundancies on the city's end. But will it be enough?
Riggs concluded that if the justice department approves an extension for the consent decree past 2026 that could be another way to help reduce costs in a less pressured time frame.
So we’re told to expect to hear plenty more about consent decree costs in the coming weeks, months and years ahead.