Jeffco Commissioners not sure of sewer rate increase

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - It is a new year but Jefferson County sewer customers may not have to pay a sewer rate increase. A consultant hired by the county has recommended a increase of 6.7%. There has not been a sewer rate hike in two years. Commissioner Jim Carns who runs environmental services says not yet."Rate increases are not going to solve this problem. It's larger than rate increases. I hate it."Carns said.

Jefferson County is still facing a $3 billion sewer debt. The county is being sued by investors who want a receiver appointed to boost county revenues to pay off the debt. Carns says Wall Street banks and insurance companies will have to agree to a lesser debt because increasing sewer rates will not work. "I wish we could solve it with rate increases. If we could, we would give it more serious attention," Carns said.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says it will be up to Carns to come up with a recommendation. If there is a recommendation public hearings will be held. Commissioner Shelia Smoot says she will oppose any sewer rate increase.  "It is not the time. In my district that carries this system, they cannot afford it," Smoot said.

Those paying their sewer bills Tuesday agree with Smoot. "Every time I get my bill, the sewer bill is higher than the water bill. Now they are talking about seven percent. I got a big problem with it. Somebody needs to do something about it," Wilbur Croshen said.

"People are having a hard time paying bills as it is. With the economy like it is now, I feel they need to help senior citizens," Novella Jones said.