Tuesday, as expected, the Birmingham Water Works Board voted to raise water rates 3.9 percent.
At a public meeting earlier this month, the BWWB revealed that the public utility’s debt which has grown to a staggering $957 million.
The debt has grown despite raising rates every year since 2012 by between 3.9 percent and 4.9 percent.
The average customer will see their water bill climb from $43.43 a month to $44.63 per month.
A source close to the county told the Alabama Political Reporter that the BWWB has aging infrastructure that will cost more and more each year to maintain and that the structure of the Board itself is flawed making it difficult for the Board to make the hard decisions that it needs to make.
BWWB spokesman Rick Jackson told reporters with Birmingham’s TV Channel 42 that the Board considered a 4.6 percent rate increase; but opted for the smaller 3.9 percent increase; but said that the Board would look at it again in 2020.
William “Butch” Burbage Jr. is the chairman/President of the Board of Directors for the BWWB.
Earlier this month, Birmingham Water Works Board member and former President Sherry Lewis was found guilty on felony ethics charges. She will be sentenced on December 12.
Lewis was found guilty of two counts of voting on a matter in which she or a family matter had a financial gain.
Two more alleged conspirators are scheduled to go on trial in January.
The indictments come after a lengthy investigative grand jury process by the Alabama Attorney General’s office.
Even though the Birmingham Waterworks Board is a public utility it is not regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission, which regulates public utilities.
The BWWB is regulated at the state level only by the Alabama Attorney General’s office, whose primary role is to enforce state law and defend the state against law suits and does not have staff dedicated solely to regulating public utilities.
An Engineering and Maintenance Committee Meeting of the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham has been scheduled for Tuesday, December 10, 2019, at 11:30 a.m., at the principal office of the Board, 3600 First Avenue North, Birmingham, Alabama. The purpose of the committee meeting is to review, discuss, and make recommendations relative to engineering matters related to the capital improvement program such as major plant improvements or plant upgrades or expansions, water main and pipe rehabilitation, and other issues being presented for consideration.
Almost a quarter of Alabama’s population receive their water directly or indirectly from the BWWB.
Original reporting by Birmingham TV station CBS42 contributed to this report.