League logoTHE VOTER
A Publication of The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham

Published October 2006

Observer Corps

Birmingham Water Works Board (Submitted by Ann Smith)
At the regular board of directors meeting Sept. 28, 2006, the BWWB heard presentations by four speakers urging the board to consider landscaping the area surrounding the Shades Mountain Filter Plant when current construction work is complete.  A new access road, new plant entrance, and rehabilitation of the South dam are underway.

A request to approve a contract for development of a Watershed Protection Policy and Best Management Practices/Policies for Lake Purdy and Inland Lake was tabled to allow for additional study by the board. Michael Vann, a 30-year employee of the BWWB, most recently Director of Water Resources and External Affairs (previously CFO and General Manager) is retiring Oct.1.  No replacement was mentioned at this meeting.

Jefferson County Commission (Submitted by Beverly Nelson)
Former Jefferson County sewer chief Jack Swann was found guilty by a federal jury on October 2 of one count conspiracy, 6 counts bribery and 11 counts mail fraud.  Additional guilty verdicts were returned on charges against F.W. Dougherty Engineering. Rast Construction, Roland Pugh Construction and individuals associated with the companies, Bobby Rast, Eddie Yessick and Pat Dougherty. Jefferson County residents were excluded from the jury pool after defense attorneys argued that citizens might perceive themselves as victims in this case.  Swann is the second county official to be found guilty of accepting bribes in connection with sewer contracts.  Former Commissioner Chris McNair was convicted of bribery and conspiracy earlier this year.  All the defendants except Swann were also convicted in that case.  They remain free on bond pending sentencing.

Jefferson County’s Finance Department is attempting to correct errors in its 2005 financial statements before an October 13 deadline set by state examiners.  County Commission president Larry Langford maintained that the errors are minor and do not affect the overall financial position of the County.  He was incensed that The Birmingham News had a copy of the letter from state examiners before he did and called for an investigation into the source of the newspaper’s information.  County finance director Steve Sayler said he was not aware of the specific errors in the financial statements until they were pointed out by The Birmingham News. According to The News’ document, some of the discrepancies include total net assets shown as $11.7 billion on one financial statement, but reported as $320 million on another.  Total net assets for the county nursing home was reported as $1.7 million on one statement, but as $10.1 million on another.  The enterprise fund was shown as $2.5 million in one report, but as $23.2 million on another.  Sayler told The News that most of the problems were mathematical and the next draft will be more accurate.  Birmingham accounting firm Banks, Finley, White and Company assisted the county with the financial statements.  BFW & Co was paid $250,000 for its work.

The Jefferson County Commission is considering $3 million incentive to help U.S. Pipe build a new pipe mill.  The company is considering Birmingham, Bessemer and other areas in the nation for the site.  A company spokesman said the incentive package will weigh heavily in the decision-making process.  Some citizens questioned the package after commissioners failed to approve incentives to keep Red Diamond from leaving the county.  In that instance, the county would have had to relocate its motor fleet facility to provide Red Diamond room for expansion.

See the Action Up Close!

Volunteers Needed to Observe the Jefferson County Commission in November

November will be an interesting month for Jefferson County watchers.  Two incumbents will leave the commission and two new commissioners will take their seats. Insiders speculate that Betty Fine Collins will replace Larry Langford as commission president. We need Observer Corps coverage for the JCC meetings during November.  The meetings are each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse.  Meetings last from five to 45 minutes.

Contact Ann Smith (wlyons2525@charter.net or 205 823-4749) to volunteer for November Jefferson County Commission meetings.

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