A Publication of The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham

Published September 2005

Jefferson County Commission Observer Corps Report

It was a tough summer for the Jefferson County Commission. The county lost six employees to sewer scandal indictments. On August 2 the commission voted $400,000 to pay for contract employees to fill department openings. Commissioner Gary White said the county wants to hire replacements, but has trouble getting job candidates from the Jefferson County Personnel Board. That same day the Commission said it would not give new work to any of the 19 people and companies included in the federal indictment. Hours later, a commission committee recommended paying two of the indicted engineering firms $1 million more for added work on existing contracts.

Two days later Bloomberg Markets magazine published an article, "The Banks that Fleeced Alabama." The article points out that Jefferson County ranks third in the nation with bond swaps of $5.8 billion. Bloomberg said bankers pulled in exorbitant fees while county sewer bills tripled. About 75% of the county's $4.6 billion in bond debt and most of its swaps are related to the sewer rehabilitation program. See the complete article at

At its September 6 meeting the Commission voted to discontinue operating the Jefferson County Landfills and lease them and their operations to a private company. Citizens were present at the meeting who did not agree with this decision, but were not included in the discussion. Commissioner White recommended the lease go to BFI. A member of the audience blurted, "They'll bring in out-of-state trash!" None of the commissioners acknowledged the outburst, but White's recommendation did not receive a second. The commissioners then voted to award the contract to Santek. White qualified that outcome by saying they will negotiate with Santek for 30 days. If agreement is not reached in that period, negotiations will shift to BFI. On September 13 the commission voted to add the County Attorney to the Landfill Evaluation Team handling the negotiations.

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