Sewer consultant didn't want to overburden JeffCo users - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Sewer consultant didn't want to overburden JeffCo users

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Eric Rothstein (abc3340.com) Eric Rothstein (abc3340.com)
Jefferson County Commission (abc3340.com) Jefferson County Commission (abc3340.com)
BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Jefferson County commissioners raised sewer rates that go into affect in March. But sewer creditors now want to undo that work and raise rates even more.

Sewer creditors believe commissioners deliberately did not do enough to pay off the sewer debt. It stands at more than three billion dollars.

But even their own witness says that no more can be done.

Sewer consultant Eric Rothstein helped draft the new rates that go into affect in March. He says they cannot be raised high enough to quickly pay off the debt without overburdening sewer users.

The Jefferson County sewer system is a burden. Tut commissioners don't want users to shoulder it. That's why Rothstein recommended the new rates- a monthly increase of two dollars for the average user.

"The commission sets rates, not sewer creditors, not sewer receivers. We feel comfortable it's our job to set rates and we'll do it," said Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington.

But obviously, if sewer creditors saw it that way, they wouldn't be fighting to take the issue to state court and to have former sewer receiver John Young put back over the system. They asked Rothstein why he didn't suggest higher rates to pay off the debt faster.

Rothstein said it wasn't possible even slightly higher rates didn't make a big difference. He said paying off the debt sooner than later would've required an increase by several hundred percent.

If creditors win this court battle and If young is put back in place, commissioners are concerned about the cost.

"It could be bad for the county, total, all around. He was in place. He had an agenda, we think. I'm not sure that agenda was in the best interest of the people of Jefferson County," said Commissioner Joe Knight.

The former receiver will take the stand for sewer creditors. He's expected to testify last. That may not happen this week.

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