JeffCo commission approves new bankruptcy exit plan

JeffCo commission approves new bankruptcy exit plan

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Jefferson County commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the new bankruptcy exit plan to get the county out of Chapter 9 bankruptcy by Christmas. Source: Damian Johnson/WBRC Jefferson County commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the new bankruptcy exit plan to get the county out of Chapter 9 bankruptcy by Christmas. Source: Damian Johnson/WBRC
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

Jefferson County commissioners have approved the new plan to exit Chapter 9 bankruptcy by Christmas, pending a judge's approval of the plan.

Today's 4-1 vote means Jefferson County could be out of bankruptcy by mid-December if they can convince a new group of investors to buy about $1.7 billion of new debt.

The county is getting an extra $300 million in concessions from creditors with the biggest share coming from JPMorgan, and it's a creative concession.

Instead of promising extra cash, the bank is offering to set aside about $180 million in a 40-year line of credit the county can use as a bond reserve fund, which means the county can borrow less but the bank isn't forking over extra money upfront.

It's that kind of creative deal making that commissioners David Carrington and Jimmie Stephens say helped get this deal done.

But commissioner George Bowman voted against this deal, repeating his complaint that the whole exit plan puts all of the burden on ratepayers who he say can't afford 40 years of guaranteed increases.

Carrington says he shares that concern, but says the county is putting together a fund to help poor ratepayers with their bills, and he believes this is the best deal the county can do

"I think it's the best deal we can do at this point in time. You have to keep this in consideration. Mr. Young was going to raise rates 25 percent every six months, which means that rates would've doubled within a year. So you have to look at where things are. We believe these rates are at the edge of reasonableness," Carrington said.

The new debt will total $1.73 billion. Commissioner Knight pointed out that they started with $3.2 billion in debt and have brought it down to $1.7 billion, which is 52 cents on the dollar.

Stephens said he thinks this is the best deal the county could get, and he's ready to move on from two years of bankruptcy.

"We're looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and going back to work. This commission has not backed up from hard decisions or from hard work. And there's much left to be done and we're gonna work hard to make sure this comes to a succesful fruition also," Stephens said.

The county was planning to take this plan to the bankruptcy judge on November 12 for approval, but they're asking to delay that hearing until November 20 so they can try to pre-sell the new bonds and have everything ready to go if the judge signs off on it.

Selling those new bonds starts with another trip back to New York next week for commissioner Carrington and the county's CFO who will be trying to convince investors this is a place they want to do business.

FOX6 News Reporter Jonathan Hardison will have the latest details on this story on FOX6 News starting at 5 p.m.

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