By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 25 the Alabama House of Representatives voted to send HB 482 to the full Alabama House of Representatives with a favorable report.
HB 482 is sponsored by Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville who chairs the House Health Committee. The legislation gives St. Clair County residents in Moody who get their water from the Birmingham Waterworks, representation for the first time on the Birmingham Waterworks Board which is controlled by the City Council of Birmingham even though more than half of the waterworks customers actually live outside of the city limits stretching out too St. Clair, Shelby, Blount, and Walker Counties. The City of Moody and St. Clair County are hopeful that the powerful Birmingham Waterworks Board will agree to just sell its holdings in St. Clair County to the City of Moody, which already operates the sewer system in Moody, Argo, and Margaret. If the St. Clair County assets are sold back to Moody then the St. Clair County seat on the Board would be abolished.
Before the vote, representatives of the Birmingham Waterworks Boards were given an opportunity to speak in opposition to the bill. Birmingham Waterworks Board General Manager Mac Underwood and a board attorney said that the Birmingham Waterworks Board purchased the Moody waterworks system for 2.4 million and since then have put millions of dollars back into the system.
Underwood says that the Birmingham Waterworks has provided for the growth in Birmingham and the growth in Moody. “All in all we have put in over $12 million in assets.” Underwood said that he has met with Moody and St. Clair County officials including: Moody Mayor Joe Lee, St. Clair County Commissioner Paul Manning, and Jimmy Bailey as well as some of the residents about selling the Moody facilities. “All Birmingham wants is the fair value of those assets.” Since November the Birmingham Waterworks Board has been doing the work necessary to sell the waterworks.
The Board’s representatives said that the Birmingham Waterworks have put the infrastructure in place so that Moody could double and even triple its size if it continues to purchase water from the Birmingham Waterworks. “We are doing a good job servicing this area.”
Underwood said that he talked with Mayor Lee and a group on November 29th, talked with Mayor Lee again in January, and again last week. He also has met with some of Moody’s bankers. The Birmingham Waterworks will offer the St. Clair County assets, “Once we determine fair value.” Underwood said that the legislature, “May be passing a bill to accomplish something that is not necessary.”
Representative Joe Hubbard (D) from Montgomery asked that if you are going to sell the waterworks facilities in St. Clair County anyway what harm does this bill do?
Underwood said that about 95% of the customers come from Jefferson County and 91 percent of the revenue comes from Jefferson County. “We can’t guarantee that Moody will buy back the system.”
Underwood said that the board objected to adding board members from Shelby, St Clair, Walker, and Blount Counties. There are only 30 customers in Walker County, 300 in Blount County, over 2000 in St. Clair County, and approximately 15,000 in Shelby County.
Underwood said, “If we come up with a value of $10 million and they (Moody and/or St. Clair County) have got $10 million they can buy it.”
Underwood complained that the Legislative session is rushing this.
The committee passed the legislation on to the full House with a favorable report.
Representative Paul DeMarco (R) from Homewood and Senator J.T. “Jabo” Wagoner (R) from Vestavia have introduced their own legislation to force the Birmingham Water Works to adopt a more representative governing structure.