Legislature OKs bill to add Shelby County resident to Birmingham Water Board

Published 1:28 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – Shelby County likely will have direct representation on the Birmingham Water Works Board after the Alabama Legislature approved a bill to reorganize the entity on May 5.

The bill now awaits signature by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Through the bill, which was sponsored in the Alabama Senate by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, the Shelby County Commission will begin appointing a member to the Water Works Board beginning in 2017.

Former state Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, said he worked with Waggoner to sponsor the legislation during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, and lobbied for the bill’s passage this year.

“Shelby County alone has almost 40,000 ratepayers in its boundaries, but no representation on the board. Even though two-thirds of the ratepayers live outside the city limits of Birmingham, only one of the five board members lives outside the city.” DeMarco wrote in a letter published in the Shelby County Reporter on April 22. “Shelby County ratepayers finally deserve a voice on the Birmingham Water Works Board.”

In addition to a representative from Shelby County, the bill also will add members from Jefferson and Blount counties to the board, and caps board member compensation at $1,000 per month. The bill also requires the board to give public notice at least 30 days prior to a meeting regarding rate increases, and requires the board to hold a public hearing at the meeting before voting on any rate hikes.

Shelby County Commissioner Corley Ellis praised the bill’s passage, and called it a “step in the right direction.”

“With so many Shelby County citizens on that water system, it just makes sense,” Ellis said. “I’m glad it passed. I think that’s a good move for (the Legislature).”

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, co-sponsored the bill, and said the changes will combat “unfair treatment” Shelby County ratepayers have faced in the past.

“If rates should go up, we deserve to have a voice in that,” Ward said. “We are all very excited about it.”