September 5, 2008

Friday Headlines: State Bailout is Latest Plan in a County’s Sewer Debt Crisis

Posted in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, National, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin at 12:48 pm by bengann

A bailout plan by Alabama Governor Bob Riley to help Jefferson County avoid bankruptcy would limit annual rate hikes for customers to 2.85 percent. Since 1996, county sewer customers have seen their bills increase 329 percent. The plan calls for paying the banks everything they are owed but at lower interest rates. If the banks don’t agree to the proposal, the county will likely file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Jefferson County has $3.2 billion in sewer debt it can’t fully pay. If the county opts for bankruptcy, it would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, easily surpassing the previous high of $1.6 billion set by Orange County, California in 1994.

Leaders in Brownsburg, Indiana still lack answers for sewer problems that have plagued about 400 homeowners north of the town for more than five years. The town received a $3 million construction bid in June to extend sewers into the neighborhoods and is now working on a rate study to give those homeowners options on how to pay for the project.

The Common Council of Appleton, Wisconsin on Wednesday voted 14-2 to accept a consultant’s study recommending $11 million in improvements at the city’s water treatment plant. The study also includes a memo from the state Department of Natural Resources suggesting an additional $3 million in improvements to meet current and future environmental regulations.

Yesterday Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) co-hosted with Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R) a transportation and infrastructure discussion with about 40 local leaders in Boise. “What is underground is in worse shape than the bridges,” said Blumenauer. “72,000 miles of the nation’s water and sewer pipes are over 80 years of age, dating back to (President Calvin) Coolidge.”

Sewer Rate News
McCook, Nebraska
Netarts, Oregon


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