The Birmingham Water Works filed a temporary restraining order and an injunction to stop a petition for a proposed ordinance for the city to take over the utility. 

A group of Birmingham citizens created the proposed ordinance, but Birmingham Water Works public relations manager Rick Jackson said that the ordinance is illegal, insisting that the Alabama Supreme Court has before ruled similar ordinances illegal because the Water Works is an independent entity and cannot be controlled or dissolved by third parties.

"As such, the Petition and Proposed Ordinance are invalid and cannot legally be submitted to the Council or the public for vote, and any such process would be both an unlawful use of taxpayer money as well as a waste of public resources," Jackson said.

One of the petitioners told CBS 42 that the petition would have dissolved the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) and allowed the city to take control of the utility. According to state law, proposed ordinances can be submitted to the Birmingham City Council for a vote if the petition is signed by 10% or more qualified voters.

The Water Works filed the restraining order and injunctive in the Jefferson County Circuit Court on Monday. Judge Carole Smitherman recused herself from the case, leaving the case to Judge Pat Ballard, who issued the restraining order, which prohibits Jefferson County Probate Judge James P. Naftel from certifying the petition.

The petition follows a year of numerous controversies within the Water Works. 

In 2022, thousands of customers reportedly didn't receive bills for months at a time. Later, they received much larger or multiple bills all at once.

The bills were also not based on accurate meter readings but were estimations using previous months' usage. Birmingham Water Works blamed the issues on a lack of meter readers and insufficient staffing.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall asked the BWWB to turn over a handful of documents about the proposed rate increase in October. 1819 News reached out to Marshall's office for an update in December. Marshall's communications director Mike Lewis said the attorney general has nothing new to add on this matter.

At the end of November, Birmingham Water Works voted to approve two new budgets for fiscal year 2023, which amount to a combined total of $197,612,101. The new budgets also call for a 3.9% rate hike, which is less than half of the rate increase that the board proposed in September and identical to the rate hike that came with last year's budget.

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