Jefferson County commissioners were trained today in how to avoid trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees financial deals on Wall Street.
Tuesday, commissioners received training about returning to Wall Street to refinance more than $1.9 billion as a part of their plan to exit bankruptcy.
A majority of the commissioners stand by their bankruptcy exit plan, which has come under attack from some financial reports and analysts across the country. Commissioners believe the plan will work, but there is growing concern about rising interest rates.
"We can't predict what will happen in the future but the proper course is to stay the course. Without a plan in place the only option is failure," commissioner Jimmie Stephens said.
County commissioners say if interest rates are too high to make their plan work for sewer customers to pay off, then they will ask creditors to cut the amount of debt the county owes them.
"We are trying our best to be transparent as we move forward within the constraints of the law. We are trying to give the creditors the information that's necessary for them to make an informed decision," Stephens added.
Attorneys hired by the county told commissioners other municipalities such as Miami, Fla., Harrisburg, Pa. and Orange County, Calif. got into trouble for failing to disclose information about the current debt or the financial risk of their plan to get out of bankruptcy.
"I think what you heard in there is that you are going to have to publish a fully transparent document," commission president David Carrington said.
Commissioners believe the review gave them insight on how not to cross the line which some former county commissioners may have crossed in the past.
"I think if some of the prior commissioners had followed those guidelines we would not have made the mistakes there were made in the past," commissioner George Bowman said.
Jefferson County commissioners are vowing to be as transparent as possible as they get ready to refinance $1.9 billion worth of debt. They believe harsh lessons have been learned from the past.
The bankruptcy exit plan will be up for final approval and confirmation in December.
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