The Birmingham Water Works Board bill has resurfaced in the Senate. Customers outside Birmingham could finally get representation with three additional board seats.
The issue comes down to control. Birmingham doesn't want to give up its appointing authority. That has one of the sponsors asking what the utility is trying to hide.
"Save our water" signs were stuck into the ground outside the Statehouse. Just three customers and Senator Rodger Smitherman, (D) Birmingham, rallied against proposed changes to the Birmingham Water Works Board."If they come for us today, it will be for you tomorrow," said Smitherman.
The "us" are Jefferson County water customers, primarily ones in Birmingham. They make up two-thirds of the water works customers. Yet, all board appointments are made by the Birmingham City Council.
An amended bill would allow Birmingham to keep a majority but it would add three seats and representation to customers in Blount, Walker, St. Clair and Shelby Counties. It's intended to be a compromise.
"When you look at Birmingham growing the system, you think we've generated all the revenue and infrastructure," said Mac Underwood of Birmingham Water Works at a public hearing.
But the city sold the system in 2001. As Underwood testified, water actually comes from lakes and rivers outside Jefferson County.
Sponsor Representative Paul Demarco, (R) Homewood, says customers outside Birmingham just want representation."All we want is more voice from the ratepayers on this board," said Demarco.
The bill also calls for public hearings on rate increases and limiting board members' pay.
Senator Jabo Waggoner, (R) Vestavia Hills, says he hasn't heard any opposition to those provisions.
No one at the public hearing voice opposition to those changes.
The Senate took a vote to cloture debate at 5 p.m.. It failed by a few votes.
Last week, the bill failed to come to a vote because there were not enough votes to end debate.