Jefferson County debates debt problems

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County's finances are improving but the county is still facing pressure to spend tax dollars.

Talks are still underway to solve Jefferson County's massive $3 billion sewer debt. Commissioner Jim Carns oversees environmental services. Carns said Tuesday new proposed regulations for water protection could add  to the county's debt.

"We are at safe levels now," Carns said. "In most opinions it's going to be an extreme situation. It could cost $50 million to $300 million according to how strict they got."

Carns said if the tougher regulations go into effect, it will have to be paid out of department. Carns said it could lead to less money from sewer customers going to settle any deal with the sewer debt.

Meanwhile over in Roads and Transportation, fixing roads with paving projects will be the top goal for the rest of year.

"We got a crisis situation in our paving," Humphreys said. "We are going to have to do as much as paving as we can. It we don't do something it's going to cost ten times as much a year if we don't do it now."

Humphreys said the county needs to spend $5 million on road repair or it may end up costing the county $50 million.
Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said tax collections continue to look up. But, Collins said spending will have to remain under control. Still the commissioner hopes county workers will get pay raises later this year.

"The one thing we hope to be able to do is merit pay raises for our employees," Collins said. "It is important and an incentive for them to say with the county."

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