BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A group of civic organizations is asking Birmingham-area leaders to appoint new board members to the city’s water utility who will stop shutting off water for customers behind on their bills.
The organizations are asking for Birmingham Water Works Board members who will resume a moratorium on shutoffs for overdue bills and set up 12-month income-driven repayment plans instead of shorter repayment plans over three to six months.
The board resumed water shutoffs in October after an earlier pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. There were more 12,000 overdue accounts owing more than $7 million at that time, WBMA-TV reports, although some customers have since caught up.
Rob Burton, executive director of SWEET Alabama, said charity groups can’t afford to cover the overdue bills. The group promotes the sustainable use of energy, land and water.
“A lot of our children are taking school virtually and people are working at home so cutting off service to water in our home while our children do not have access to their public spaces and their schools, it’s going to further negatively impact our children,” Burton said.
All nine board members’ terms expire at the end of the year, according to the board’s website. The Birmingham City Council appoints four members and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin appoints two members. The Jefferson County Mayor’s Association, the Shelby County Commission and the Blount County Commission each appoint one member. The utility provides drinking water to more than 600,000 customers in five counties.
Burton said a short-term repayment plan can be like paying three water bills in a month for a resident.
Burton said the board has not acted despite multiple meetings.
In November, the board of directors voted to approve budgets that will not result in an increase in customers’ water rates for 2021.