‘Just Wrong’ Campaign Talk About Sewer Rates, Commissioners Say

David Carrington

Jefferson County Commissioners Tuesday disputed comments about sewer rates that they said candidates in the June 5 primary election are making.

Commissioner David Carrington, the lone commissioner not seeking reelection, cited the claim of a candidate that sewer rates will increase 40 percent.

“Don’t confuse me with the truth when lies sound better,” he said during the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Commissioner Sandra Little Brown echoed that sentiment. “ … There’s so much misinformation out there,” she said. “It’s just wrong.”

After the session, Commission President Jimmie Stephens expanded on the comments.

“We’ve never seen a 40 percent increase in sewer this year. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “According to the bankruptcy plan of adjustment, all sewer rate increases from this point forward will be 3.49 percent. That sewer rate increase handles operation and maintenance, capital expenditures and debt service.”

Stephens added that sewer revenues are exceeding expectations. That, he said, means there’s no stress on the county’s sewer enterprise account.

“Expenses are in line and looking good too,” he said. “There is surplus being added to our sewer account each year. There will not be any non-user fees and there will not be any sewer rate increases exceeding 3.49 percent as long as this trend continues.”

Deputy County Manager Walter Jackson said the county manager’s office is trying reach the public with information about water and sewer rates. He cited an ad that ran last week in The Birmingham Times.

“Hopefully, the public will pay attention,” he said.

Also Tuesday:

* The commission held a public hearing in accordance with the law because the county is about to go to market with general obligation warrants. Stephens said the county has restored its credit rating, with an A3 rating by Standard and Poors and double-A minus ratings by Fitch and Moody’s. The county formerly was bankrupt.

“What we’ve done as a commission is we’ve restored that credibility and accountability back to Jefferson County and have raised the credit rating from a very poor junk rating,” Stephens said.

The increase in credit rating saves interest-rate dollars for the residents of Jefferson County, he said. “We’re not borrowing any more money. We’re refunding – in your home term, we’re refinancing – our general obligation warrants in order to have a lesser payment (and) put more dollars to work for our citizens.”

* Commissioners saw a presentation from Armika Berkley, director of Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, concerning a Health and Wellness Fair on May 10 at Linn Park. The fair included blood pressure screenings, HIV/AID testing, mammograms, diabetic screenings and screenings for sickle cell anemia.

She said 110 people were screened during the health fair. Of those, 65 were referred for follow-up appointments.

“This is disproportionately a bad number,” Berkley said. “If you know you’re at high risk, take advantage of screenings every time you can, including community health fairs.”