Group asks legislature for help with county sewer debt

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A community group is begging Alabama lawmakers to help with Jefferson County's sewer debt crisis.

Leaders of JeffCo Can met with the Irondale Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, discussing ways they think the county can solve it's massive sewer bond debt.  Slade Blackwell, chairman of JeffCo Can, said his group has a three-part plan:

Unearmark Jefferson County sales taxes to help payoff the debt
Create an independent management board
Negotiate and restructure a new lower bond debt

Blackwell said the time is right to solve the problem.

"The main issue, we got to get the delegation and the commission working together for a solution," Blackwell said. "Right now the session has started, the legislators need to hear everyone is tired of not getting the issue solved."

Irondale businessmen agreed something has to be done.

"There is no way for the citizens of Jefferson County to pay a three point two billion dollar debt," John Scheon said.

However, Birmingham Rep. John Rogers says Jefferson County lawmakers are not going to unearmark dollars going to school construction.

"That won't happen," Rogers said. "Anytime you got money going to school construction it should go to the schools."

Jefferson Co. Commissioner Jim Carns does not believe the delegation will go along with Blackwell's plan.

"The mood down there is Jefferson County needs to solve the problem," Carns said. "The problem is defined by the legal agreements when we bought the bonds and it's operating revenues period."

The opposition is not stopping Jeffco Can.

"If the local delegation doesn't step up we are going to be in this mess for another six,eight, nine months," Blackwell said.