Jefferson County Commission

BWWB Collection Issues Raised During JeffCo Commission Discussion on Sewer Billing

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

A proposed extension of Jefferson County’s sewer billing relationship with Birmingham Water Works broached a discussion about why customer costs are rising.

County Attorney Theo Lawson told the Jefferson County Commission during Tuesday’s committee meeting that he has been negotiating with the utility company over BWW billing customers both for water and Jefferson County sewer service. Lawson said the current contract expires in December and must be extended six months while those discussions continue.

“We need to maintain the status quo,” Lawson said, “so that we do have collections in place until we can get this squared away.”

Commissioner Sheila Tyson said the dual billing relation has allowed some with BWW to blame Jefferson County for higher customer bills. She asked whether Jefferson County might have to reimburse the part of an overcharge that went to the sewer payment.

“The collection method they have isn’t good because if it was, they wouldn’t be overcharging these people,” she said. “I got 10 calls since Thursday. We got 10 calls and I got a text right here where people have texted me their bills.”

One of those bills was for $103,000 for a 91-year-old woman.

“With that coming to her mailbox with that kind of number on it, it’ll give you a heart attack,” Tyson said. “We gonna have to do something because they ain’t collecting it right. They making us look bad and then they said to the media, ‘Ain’t nobody saying anything about them (Jefferson County) going up on the sewer.’

“It (sewer) has nothing to do with you overcharging people, trying to throw it back on us because they don’t know how to do their job.”

Lashunda Scales said negotiations with the utility could net savings for the county.

“I just recently learned that the kind of money that we’re spending in order for us to do this combined billing for the same information that Water Works Board would need to collect on its own anyway is absolutely ridiculous,” Scales said. “I believe that if we approach this judiciously, I think there is a cost savings. The water board already has to collect certain data and the data is basically what we are paying for.”

Senior Dinner

In another matter, commissioners approved amending a resolution from a previous meeting that allotted money for a senior citizen dinner on Dec. 14. Tyson said that event has drawn nearly 1,000 seniors to register to take part in the event.

“We do not do enough for our senior citizens,” she said. “If you look at every budget that is cut, they cut the seniors and the senior citizens every time we cut a budget. It’s time for us to start making sure we take care of them.

“We’ve got to take care of them,” Tyson continued. “That’s part of our responsibility of being over senior services.”

Tyson said participation in the upcoming event is expected to be so great because seniors “ain’t gone nowhere” during the COVID pandemic.

Persons interested in attending the senior dinner at Boutwell Auditorium can contact Janice Williams, the coordinator of senior services, via the county website or by calling (205) 325-5567. Tyson said persons can also call her office at (205) 325-5074.