Jeffco Commissioners blast each other over sewer debt

By Alan Collins

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins blasted her fellow Republicans on the commission Wednesday. Commissioners Jim Carns and Bobby Humphryes say the only way to solve the $3 billion sewer debt crisis is for the Wall Street banks and bond holder to reduce the debt by $2 billion.

"That is absolutely true. Nothing has changed. The numbers have been there. At best we can afford $1.2 billion under the current market conditions," Carns said.
"The only way to solve this is to reduce the debt. You got to reduce considerably. Almost by more than half," Humphryes said. "The county borrowed and spent 3.2 billion."

On Wednesday Collins accused both commissioners of trying to undermine settlement talks. "I think it's absolutely detrimental. I think it's an attempt to cause a train wreck in negotiations," Collins said.
Collins says the county was victimized in the original bond deal but the county still owes more than $3 billion. The commissioner believes if settlement negotiations fail, a court could appoint a receiver to take over the sewer department. "That receiver could raise sewer rates 400 percent to meet the need of the debt as of today," Collins said.
Collins says a receiver may also try to impose non-user fees in the county. Still, Humphryes says he will not be forced into accepting just any deal."I'm not going to vote on a deal because it's good for Bettye's legacy to solve the sewer debt. It's got to be good for the ratepayer and the taxpayer," Humphreys said.

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