BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Birmingham Water Works Board voted Thursday evening 6-3 to increase rates by 2.9% in 2018.
News that the water board was looking at that increase did not go over well with folks paying their water bills earlier in the day on Thursday.
"It's going to hurt a whole lot of people. Three percent now is going to hurt a lot of people. Everybody can't afford a three percent increase," Edward Mathis, water customer said.
The water board looked at an almost four percent increase, but they were able to trim it back to the lower amount. "We have 4,000 miles of main in the ground that is aging infrastructure. Trying to keep up with all that. We have seen a lot of leaks lately. We have to keep things going to maintain a strong system," Rick Jackson, BWWB spokesman said.
Jackson said the excessive rain hurt meant less lawns were watered and that cut back on water board profits. "If we didn't have the rate increase at all. Not saying for a fact but next year rate increase could be significantly higher." Jackson said.
Former state lawmaker Paul DeMarco has been a critic of the water board and he pushed for expanding the board. DeMarco says another group such as the Public Service Commission should oversee the board and determine if a rate increase is needed. "come in and regulate the water board and say if you need these rate increases you need to justify why you need these annual rate increases."Demarco said.
The water board okayed a rate increase of almost four percent last year. The board could okay the increase after the hearing but Jackson is not expecting that will happen tonight but maybe next board meeting.