Joint Statement From Organizations to the Birmingham Water Works Board Regarding Rate Evaluation Process and Proposed Rate Increase
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 9, 2021
For more information, please contact:
Rob Burton, Executive Director, SWEET Alabama
205-538-3038 | [email protected]
Beth K. Stewart, Executive Director, Cahaba River Society
205-532-3080 | [email protected]
Kelly Marshall, Communications Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance
205-540-7385 | [email protected]
The Birmingham Water Works Board provided this information about this Wednesday’s public hearing on raising water rates:
“A Regular Board of Directors’ Meeting of the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., at the principal office of the Board, 3600 First Avenue North (in the Training Room on the first floor of the main campus)…The Board of Directors intend to consider taking action consistent with Resolution No. 4166 which was adopted on December 23, 2003 adoption of the Rate Stabilization and Equalization Procedure (RSE Model) that will result in a rate increase.
At this meeting a hearing will take place to receive comments from the public.
Members of the public may listen to the meeting by calling:
Phone Number: (888) 398-2342 | Access Code: 5608731
If you have questions that you would like addressed, please send them to:
[email protected] Subject: Public Hearing”
Together SWEET Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama Rivers Alliance, and the Cahaba River Society submitted the following joint statement for the Board’s consideration in this rate evaluation process:
In light of continuing economic and health impacts of the COVID pandemic, and the lack of an effective local system to ensure continuing water service for households in economic stress, we urge the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) to not raise rates this fiscal year.
We recommend the BWWB be proactive in seeking federal funds to meet system needs, to minimize rate increases on ratepayers, and to factor in potential federal funding already available or in the approval process as part of your rate evaluations. We urge the Board to research models for water rates and system financing that ensure equity and encourage water efficiency.
We urge the BWWB to work proactively with local governments in your service area and with the state to prioritize the use of American Rescue Plan dollars for much needed water and wastewater infrastructure improvements and to focus those dollars on communities most in need. We as advocacy groups commit to continue to work with the BWWB, the state and local governments in our coverage area to advocate for prioritization of water infrastructure funding and customer support with federal and state funds, as we have done throughout the pandemic.
A more detailed understanding of BWWB’s infrastructure and operational needs and future plans and priorities for system renewal and growth is needed for us to be informed advocates for the system, and for ratepayers to be able to participate knowledgeably in your public process for considering rate increases.
We also ask the Board to improve and open up the process for public involvement in this most significant decision impacting us. With pandemic restrictions, and even before these restrictions, the limited process gives scant opportunity for the public to be informed that the hearing is taking place, review any information in advance, have access to information presented in the hearing, or engage in dialogue with the Board and staff. We ask the Board to delay action and schedule a subsequent hearing that is widely advertised in the media, held at a time that working people can attend, with data and information concerning rate calculations provided in advance and made available for public viewing during the hearing, and with ample opportunity for public comments and dialogue.
We thank you for your consideration of these comments and look forward to working with you to ensure affordable, accessible, clean water for all.
In addition to the statement above, the organizations submitted questions for BWWB’s response in the public hearing, so that the public can better understand the costs driving any planned rate increase, how BWWB is accessing federal and state water infrastructure and customer support funds to offset costs, and the impact of water shutoffs and customers’ inability to pay.
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About SWEET Alabama
SWEET Alabama (Sustainable Water, Energy & Economic Transition in Alabama) connects communities to resources for water and energy efficiency, sustainability and affordable homes. For more information, please visit www.sweetal.org/
About Greater Birmingham Ministries
Greater Birmingham Ministries strives to serve people, build community, and pursue justice.
About Alabama Rivers Alliance
Alabama Rivers Alliance is a statewide network of groups working to protect and restore all of Alabama’s water resources through building partnerships, empowering citizens, and advocating for sound water policy and its enforcement.
About Cahaba River Society
Cahaba River Society is an educator, expert resource, and collaborative partner working to protect and restore the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life, including all people who rely on the Cahaba for healthy, affordable drinking water.