Alabama Legislature

Jeffco Commission Approves Billing Agreement with Birmingham Water Works Board

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens discusses new agreement with Birmingham Water Works 4/18/2023. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission, in a specially called meeting Tuesday, approved a new billing agreement with the Birmingham Water Works Board. The agreement follows months of negotiation between the two entities.

Birmingham Water Works has served as the billing agent for Jefferson County Environmental Services for residents who are BWWB customers. These bills show both water charges and sewer charges. The sewer charges are based on the water usage for the same billing period.

“We negotiated with them and came to a billing agreement which will allow more dollars available for our sewer repayment and make a more realistic and true cost of sewer billing for our customers,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “It was a cooperative effort. We’re proud to partner with the Birmingham Water Works Board on this and to be partners in perhaps future cost-saving methods surrounding the billing of water customers.”

Both organizations agreed that improvement and greater billing efficiency is needed and they agreed to examine the benefits and cost-savings of implementing electronic automatic meters. A cost study will be performed to examine the share of expenses for billing, collecting and remitting sewer service charges.

The new agreement will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, superseding all previous agreements.

 “We believe this agreement benefits Jefferson County ratepayers by implementing cost-saving measures such as the use of electronic meter readers (EMR) to reduce associated administrative fees,” said Lashunda Scales, who chairs the commission’s public works committee. “Citizens deserve to pay for actual billing and that is what this agreement has accomplished.”

Commission Hires Attorneys for Redistricting Lawsuit

The specially called meeting also included the commission hiring attorneys to represent the county in its federal law suit over redistricting. Consovoy McCarthy, and Balch & Bingham LLP will represent the county, which was accused of illegally packing Black voters into two districts to limit the influence of Blacks in a case filed in the Northern District, Southern Division of the U.S. District Court.

Subsequent to Tuesday’s called meeting, commission committee meetings were conducted. Among actions sent to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting at the Bessemer Justice Center were:

  • A resolution for a $55,000 road lighting grant in Fairfield.
  • A resolution supporting Senate Bill 179, which commissioners said affirms the actions taken earlier concerning Birmingham Water Works. It is not related to House Bill 177, which seeks to overhaul the Birmingham Water Works Board.
  • A resolution allotting $70,000 to PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship, which will be May 8-10 at Shoal Creek Club and Bessemer’s Bent Brook Golf Course.
  • An employment agreement for Jefferson Traywick to serve as the county’s economic development advisor in the office of the county manager. To date, economic development has been handled through the office of an individual commissioner. County Manager Cal Markert said having someone in his office dedicated to economic development removes a possible learning curve if a different commissioner was assigned to economic development.
  • A resolution in support of a local bill that is going to be considered in May by the Legislature. That bill would increase the amount that apartment owners are allowed to pay to constables when they assist with evictions of tenants.

Wayne Rogers, a spokesman for Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway, said constables have long been able to supervise evictions, which have generally been done by sheriff’s deputies. The help of constables is needed because of the backlog of evictions brought on by the pandemic.

“The constables have indicated that they will be happy to help for something in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 per eviction,” Rogers said, adding that their compensation hasn’t increased since 1957. “Right now, they’re limited to $35, $38 if children are involved.”