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Public Works talks budget 

Council discusses cleaning the city, abandoned cars and streetlights

  Members of the city's Department of Public Works assured District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell last week that street sweeping that occurs in the French Quarter will progress throughout the entire city and expansion of that program is part of its proposed budget for 2015. "I'm looking for a cleaner city," Cantrell said during the meeting. Public Works' proposed budget is $30.2 million for 2015, up from $16.9 million in 2014.

  Council members took turns addressing blight, lighting and other issues. Council President Stacy Head asked whether Public Works had the resources in its proposed budget to tow commercial vehicles from private property in Little Woods, where they frequently are abandoned. Head called such negligence "unacceptable," and Department of Public Works Director Mark Jernigan said it would be taken care of.

  Jernigan also talked about his department's efforts to get abandoned vehicles off the street by putting salvageable cars up for auction and recycling those that can't be sold. So far this year, Jernigan said, the city has sold 119 vehicles.

  District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who earlier this year spent several weeks holding public meetings to address crime in her district, asked the department about streetlight outages, a subject frequently raised at those meetings. Jernigan said his department does nightly patrols for outages around the city, in addition to those reported in calls to the city's 311 information line. He said streetlights typically take 30 to 60 days to replace, but the city is gradually switching to LED bulbs, which have a 10-year life cycle.

  Recently the department also hired a second traffic engineer, Kevin Giroir, a measure District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry applauded. Guidry noted the process to change a two-way street to a one-way used to take more than a year, but Jernigan said it's now six months and will continue to shrink as the department "gets the new traffic engineer up to speed."

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