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Birmingham Water Works Board to vote on rate increase Thursday

Birmingham Water Works Board

Birmingham Water Works customers may see rates rise in January.

The utility board that services five counties in central Alabama plans to vote Thursday on a 2.9 percent rate increase.

The increase is not set in stone yet. A public input meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening at 5:30.

Allen Belrose is one customer frustrated with continuous increases. He has lived in his Fultondale home 15 years and noticed a trend in his water bill.

“It has consistently gone up since 2002,” said Belrose.

Now, he's preparing for rates to rise again.

“I don't like it,” Belrose said. “Like I said, I'm on fixed income. I can't go out and earn money like I used to. It just keeps eroding away at the income as they do that. Water company isn't the only people. I mean everything else is up to.”

Birmingham Water Works General Manager Mac underwood says the increase is based on the projected revenue, the debt service and the capital budget for next year.

The capital budget is projected to increase to $63 million. One reason is that the board approved a $49.9 million project at the Shades Mountain Filter Plant.

“We need to rehab and refurbish one of the filter buildings, basically we’re going to build a whole new filter building,” said Underwood. “...It’s going to take about 30 months to complete.”

We asked board members about the rate increase they're about to vote on.

Board member William Muhammad says it's necessary.

“I like the idea of no increase, but we have employees and employees face increases,” said Muhammad. “They have cost of living situations. Bread don't cost the same thing that it cost ten years ago.”

Board member Tommy Joe Alexander says, at least it's less than last year's increase.

“So we have improved on it and we're going to keep on to work things about and next year try to get it down a little more,” said Alexander.

While Belrose is frustrated with his bill, he does say he likes the product.

“This is good water,” said Belrose.

Thursday's public input meeting is at 5:30 in the board room upstairs at the Board’s building on 1st Avenue North. All customers are invited to attend.

Several of them said they'd rather do it in the larger training room downstairs. That's where the board held some meetings last year.

“The meeting is going to be Thursday at 5:30, I don't see any reason why we couldn't utilize the downstairs training room rather than have people come up and be in the tight quarters of our board room now with nine members,” said Muhammad.

“If that many people show up on Thursday, what we're going to do is hear from the people and let them make their comments,” said Underwood. “We're going to note their comments and ask to bring other people into the room and again, there's 40 seats downstairs and 40 seats up here.”

Underwood said the fire code lists capacity as 40 people for both rooms, despite the difference in their size. He assured us anyone who shows up will get to speak to the board.

Another reason Jefferson County customers may be noticing higher bills is that county sewer rates just increased, too. On October first, rates went up 7.89 percent.

Jefferson County sewer rates are scheduled to go up 3.5 percent each year after that.

These sewer rate increases were set by a resolution the county commission passed back in 2013, as part of the its plan to exit bankruptcy.

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