Jeffco Commissioners look to get aggressive over sewer debt

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners say it is time to get aggressive and make a deal to solve Jefferson County's almost $4 billion sewer debt crisis. Lawyers representing Jefferson County have been unable to reach a deal with Wall Street investment banks for a year and a half. With the New York indictment of CDR Financial Products, a former advisor to Jefferson County in its bond deal over allegations of bid rigging, commissioners believe the talks could be changing in their favor.

"I think we are sitting on our hands. I think our attorneys, the paid ones and unpaid ones need to be more aggressive and say this is the bottom line or we are going to sue you," says Shelia Smoot, Jefferson County Commissioner.
              
Commissioners also say with the corruption trial of former commissioner Larry Langford and other federal investigations connected with the sewer bond deal, shows the county was not totally at fault.

"I think we all are aware Jefferson County didn't get into this problem by itself." said William Bell, Jefferson County Commissioner.
            
Commissioner Jim Carns says the county cannot afford to pay off the almost $4 billion debt, especially since sewer revenues have dropped. Carns agrees with Smoot now is the time to fight Wall Street.

"I think we need to do that. I'm ready to do that. Nobody has been willing to do that. I've been wanting to fight for a year and a half," Carns said.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says if there is a deal, Alabama lawmakers will have to help. Collins says a board to oversee all future bond deals may be a part of the final solution.

"We know whether it's a statewide board that will have a say over these bonds," Collins said.