Birmingham Water Works Board considers another rate increase

Birmingham Water Works Board considers another rate increase
Birmingham Water Works Board members listen to frustrated customers talk about possible rate increases. (Source: WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - You could be paying more money for water soon. The Birmingham Water Works Board is considering another rate hike. The board heard from the public Thursday about a proposed 3.9% rate increase. The board also revealed it’s nearly $1 billion in debt.

Katrina Webb couldn’t help but get emotional after talking about her high water bill. She’s been dealing with a number of issues with the Birmingham Water Works for quite a while and when she hears about another possible water rate increase…

"It’s frustrating to the people to have to go through an ordeal. Not only is the increase affecting us, but its damaging us,” Webb said.

She wasn’t the only one frustrated.

"I feel like this burden is placed upon the people...we got to have water and as long as there’s a need, you all can continue to hike, hike, hike, because you know we got to have it,” Susan Palmer, another resident said.

Birmingham Water Works says the increase is needed to help pay off debt and make improvements to infrastructure. This is the 10th consecutive rate increase.

"We need to maintain the system. We’ve got capital budget that’s about $86 million that we have to make sure that we maintain. We have to make sure we are maintaining our assets. We’ve got debt. We pay about $66 million a year on debt service,” Birmingham Water Works General Manager Michael Johnson said.

Board member William Muhammad says he used to feel the same way as residents about rate increases but he says the aging pipe system needs much needed upgrades and that’s not cheap.

"We got 300 miles of galvanized pipe in the black community…you know what it costs us to remove a mile of pipe? A million dollars,” Muhammad said.

An unexpected thing happened during the meeting, Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales proposed the board match the county’s $1.25 million in assistance for low income ratepayers. The board did vote for that but to pay for it, could mean raising rates.

We’re told the board will take up the current rate increase in a couple of weeks.

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