What's Up with the Water Board?
Longtime residents of the Greater Birmingham area seldom thought about the Water Works Board. Rates were stable and tap water quality was good. From September 1998 to February 2001 the City of Birmingham owned the water system's assets. Over Mayor Kincaid's objections in February 2001, the City Council returned ownership of the system's $471 million assets to the Water Works Board. The next month members of the water board signed an agreement to be regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission. Over four years passed with no action toward regulation.
This July the Water Works Board increased rates by 6.5%, the first of three planned hikes that will increase rates by 25% over 18 months. General Manager Mac Underwood said the rate increases are necessary because the City of Birmingham did not maintain the system while it owned the assets and wet weather caused a decrease in revenues. Underwood replaced Mike Vann, who now does public relations for the water board. Both men are paid $186,000 yearly. The board also spent more than twice the $2.5 million budgeted last year for consultants and outside engineering work.
The LWVGB wants to demonstrate public interest in water board operations. If you have a flexible schedule during weekday business hours, help expand our Observer Corps to include Water Board Meetings. Let's get involved! Contact Beverly Nelson at email@example.com or call Nancy Ekberg at 967-2897.