New controller of sewer system starts next week

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  The man leading the Jefferson County's Environmental Services Department will be on the job Monday. Russell County Circuit Judge Albert Johnson appointed New Jersey water utility executive, John Young, as receiver of the sewer department.

"I don't know all of the challenges here. I have a very good grasp on what needs to be done. I think the judge has given me the tools to get things done," said Young.

Young has total control of the department. He can cancel contracts, hire, and fire personnel.

Young says he wants to make the department more efficient and to raise sewer rates to generate revenue to pay off the county's massive $3 billion sewer debt.

"There is going to be some sort of rate increase. Frankly, there hasn't been a rate increase in environmental services for three years," he said.

Some Jefferson County commissioners are worried about how high sewer rates could go.

"You got people who can't pay their water bill and sewer bill. Now they are looking at increases in rates and all. I just hate it," Jefferson Co. Commissioner Bobby Humphryes said.

Young will be paid $500 an hour. Young says he will be retiring from his old jobs and moving to Jefferson County. Still, some county commissioners question the salary.

"I don't know how that salary was negotiated. I don't know anyone who should be making that kind of money to monitor us. That is extremely excessive." said Commissioner Shelia Smoot.

"It's going to be a multifaceted job, and frankly at the end of the day, if I can pull this thing off.... I certainly hope I can. It's going to be well worth the money," Young said.

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