Rep. Carns introduces bill to change makeup of Birmingham Water Works Board

Birmingham Water Works Customer Service Center
Birmingham Water Works Customer Service Center(WBRC FOX6 News)
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State Representative Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills) introduced a bill Tuesday to change the composition, terms, and qualifications of the Birmingham Water Works Board by converting the utility into a regional board.

HB-177 would end the terms of the current 9 board members on the day the utility is converted to a regional board, and give the mayor of Birmingham the authority to appoint 4 board members, and the Governor the authority to appoint 3.

The Carns bill would require at least 1 board member to have a background in finance, and another in engineering, and require all board members to “be well experienced in business affairs of the complexity of the operation of a water or sewer system.”

HB-177 would also allow elected officials to be appointed to the new regional board, and would ban anyone appointing anyone who’s had a business relationship with the board or worked for a company that does within a 2 year time period from an open appointment.

Under this new plan from Carns, the new regional water works board members would be term-limited to 2 terms of 5 years, and they and all the water works employees would be subject to the state Ethics Act, and the new regional board would be required to publish on its website: “(1) An annual budget in monthly form. (2) Monthly financial statements with comparison to budget. (3) Annual financial statements with comparison to budget. (4) Annual financial statements audited by an independent auditor. (5) A five-year operating plan with annual revisions and appropriate comparisons of actual to plan. (6) A 10-year capital plan.

“You’ve done some very good reporting on this in the last 12-18 months and other people have noticed it,” Rep. Carns says. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is an issue of a very large water utility that is serving 750,000 people and being very inefficient in doing that. A lot of unique things going on down there.

To lose 51% (of water pumped---a story WBRC broke 2 weeks ago)---the national average is 14% and to me that’s a lot, but 51% is just unbelievable. That’s got to affect a lot of things and number one it’s affecting the rates. They’ve had a lot of rate increases recently.

You’ve done some good reporting, a lot of people have done good reporting, but there’s not been I guess an epicenter to start from. I think this bill will be an epicenter to start from.”

BWWB Chairwoman Tereshia Huffman released this statement Wednesday:

“As the Chairwoman of the Board, I can confidently say that the current composition of our board represents the diverse service area we serve. We have prioritized ensuring that our board reflects our community and that our decisions are made with their best interests in mind. Additionally, we take great pride in transparency with our customers and stakeholders and are committed to maintaining our sound financial strength. Through the efforts of our leadership team, we have continued to maintain a sound financial footing. Birmingham Water Works has recently received an Aa2 Rating from Moody’s and AA Rating from Standard & Poor’s, which designates BWWB with a stable outlook on its operations and finances. We remain committed to providing safe, reliable, and affordable water services to our customers, and we will continue to work with the Jefferson County delegation, state legislature, and all community stakeholders to ensure that our board structure best serves the needs of our five-county service area.”

You can read the proposed bill in its entirety below:

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