In an effort to make the Birmingham Water Works Board more transparent, Representative Paul DeMarco is proposing a bill that would cap board member's pay and would expand the board to include representatives from all the counties served.
A spokesperson for Birmingham Water Works Board won't say if the board plans to fight the bill like they have in the past. However, a review of the minutes from past board meetings shows the board has paid $90,000 to a firm listed on the state's ethic page as registered lobbyist. In addition, the minutes show the board has approved the hiring of two other registered lobbyists at a price of nearly $60,000 per lobbyist.
"How high does your bill have to get before you say enough is enough? I've gotten to that point," said DeMarco. "Just look at the amount of money that's been hired out in last couple of months for lobbyist, and public relations. That's something to jump out at you and say what's going on down there?"
DeMarco contends the water board is hiring all of these folks to try to quash a bill he plans to introduce in the 2014 legislation session.
"This board is not regulated, they continue to raise rates," said DeMarco.
DeMarco is also concerned about how much board members are paid, the length of their terms, and that there is no outside representation from other counties who are served by the water board.
"Requiring public hearings before the rate increases, and the amount of increases we've had in the past decade, requiring the board to follow under ethics accountability and then representation for rate payers that want to have some say," DeMarco said.
The City of Birmingham does not support this legislation. As for the water works board, they haven't answered our questions regarding this bill saying they haven't seen it. And while our question about lobbyists and the cost were not answered we were told our water quality exceeds federal standards and that we are below the national average for rate increases.