The St. Clair Times

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October 30, 2014

Our view: Water a hot topic city, county, state during this political season

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 2:53 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

As St. Clair County continues to grow in population and in its economy, the problem of how to best meet that growth has centered on a clean, affordable water source.

"If you control the infrastructure, you control the community," Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said. "You control the growth. You control the opportunities that community has in the future."

McClendon recently introduced legislation in the Alabama House of Representatives in an effort to help Moody — a municipality of more than 12,000 — grab control of its own water system. The bill, in its current form, would require the Birmingham Water Works Board — which serves roughly 3,500 customers in Moody — to appoint members that represent all of the outlying counties who currently purchase water from Birmingham.

The end game is obvious: By adding one board member for each of the five outlying counties, the bill would give those areas a new political upper hand over the current four-member board. St. Clair County officials believe this might give them an opportunity to either purchase Moody’s water system — which Birmingham itself purchased in 1992 — or to sell Birmingham on the Coosa Valley Water Supply District, which currently pumps around 3 million gallons of water per day.

"How do you go about getting the votes on the board if you don’t have the people on the board open to selling it?" said St. Clair County Commission chairman Stan Batemon.

In a sense, Moody is the beneficiary of a perfect political storm. In a year in which officials at the county and state levels are seeking election or reelection — with the viability of Coosa Valley Water a popular political topic — the city suddenly finds itself aplomb with allies against Birmingham (which has a habit of making itself something of an easy target). It is both an opportunity to strengthen the position of the county, and create approximately 3,500 new customers for Coosa Valley Water (another step towards financial solvency for a project the county worked so hard to see through).

For its part, the city of Moody has said and done all the right things — Mayor Joe Lee said he believes the city should be represented, and that the city would be open to purchasing the system if it could be "self-supporting" on the first day.

"It’s going to have to make sense," he said.

Our hope is that whatever is the ultimate conclusion of this issue makes sense for every side involved, politics or otherwise.

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