Gov. Bentley disappointed in Jefferson County's decision

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's largest county by population makes history, but not in a good way.

Jefferson county filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history.

After years of debating and negotiating, county commissioners say there was no other way-- the debt's too big.

Jefferson County commissioners believe filing bankruptcy is their best option--restructuring the massive debt that has accumulated.  But Governor Robert Bentley disagrees.

"If you borrow money you need to pay your debts," says Bentley.

Bentley says he spoke with state legislators who agreed to call a special session to address the financial crisis.

"We would do whatever was necessary to avoid bankruptcy."

Jefferson County commissioners say they couldn't reach a final agreement with their creditors even though they thought they had one back in September.

They say that agreement would have resulted in unfair treatment of the county and its residents.

"Unfortunately we have been unable to arrive at a consensus to move forward," says one commissioner.

Outdated sewer pipes, the suffering economy, court rulings and public corruption led to the more than $4-billion dollar debt.

As paperwork is filed, commissioners believe this is the beginning of the end of Jefferson County's problems.

Governor Bentley says it only creates more.

"Bankruptcy doesn't help anybody in the state. It does not help any city, any county, or anyone who wants to borrow money in the state as far as government is concerned."

Bentley believes Jefferson County's financial situation has already had an impact on borrowing statewide.

He wants to reassure residents they're trying to keep it from affecting other their cities and towns.

The Governor says the settlement the county rejected would have reduced the sewer debt by $1 billion dollars and significantly reduced proposed sewer rate increases.

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