By Alan Collins
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - On Wednesday, Jefferson County Commissioners will decide if they want to take part in an almost $27 million bond deal to meet county maintenance and equipment needs. The money will be part of a bond deal from federal stimulus funds. If the county is eligible the federal government would pay 45% of the interest debt insuring the county gets a low interest rate.
Talks are still underway with Wall Street banks over solving the county's massive $3 billion sewer bond debt. The county's financial problems have put a lot of needs on the back burner. "We need roofs at the county home and the office of senior citizens. We don't have the money to do that. That is a capital need," said Bettye Fine Collins, Jefferson County Commission President.
Acting Finance Director Travis Hulsey says the county has a total of more than $56 million in maintenance and equipment needs Hulsey has recommended to Collins, despite low tax collections the county can afford to support an almost $27 million bond deal. Jefferson County Commissioner Bobby Humphryes disagrees. "About every other week, Commissioner Collins wants to get in the Birmingham News and on TV talking about budget cuts and laying people off on the one hand and on the other she wants to go to the bond market and borrow money. I can't see us borrowing money right now," Humphryes says.
Commissioner Shelia Smoot, an ally of Collins, says the county cannot support additional debt. "We are not, in my opinion, we are not in a position to do so. It doesn't make sense at this time. We can wait until next year when things are stable," Smoot said.
"We need it. If the commissioners don't want to pursue this. We need to move on," Collins said.
Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.
By Alan Collins