Family thankful for community support

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 25, 2013

We would like to thank all the people who have given their time and support since Christmas night when we lost our home of 35 years in the tornado.

People have been more than generous with food, gift cards, their labor and all the necessary things to get us by in an emergency situation. There is no way to describe a situation like this until it happens to you.

The police were there in a matter of minutes, as were the city utility workers, taking care of live wires everywhere. Family, friends, neighbors, Troy Regional Medical Center, people who didn’t even know us have responded with so many acts of kindness and we appreciate everything more than we can express. We give a special thank you to Jerry Spurlock for offering us the use of his house. You can’t be more generous than that.

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When God takes us out of our comfort zone, we realize how well off we really are and we do realize that things could have been much worse. We are just thankful that things are as well as they are and so grateful to all the people who have been so helpful during this stressful time.

William and Nell Fannin

Lewis and Michele Fannin


It’s time to put stain

of bankruptcy behind us

Many people who supported Jefferson County’s bankruptcy filing had the idea it would be an easy, pain-free way to fix our financial problems and clean up the sewer mess.

But that was never the case. Bankruptcy is costing us a tremendous amount of money in legal fees – and an immeasurable amount in terms of our reputation and standing.

The damage has not been contained to our county, either.

As reported Jan. 8 by The Birmingham News’ John Archibald, Alabama recently got another black eye in a respected financial publication, The Bond Buyer, because of Jefferson County’s bankruptcy.

Specifically, Alabama ranked worst in the nation for bad government debt, based on the percentage of municipal bonds in default.

Alabama’s “impairment rate” was 15 percent, according to the State Default Index created by Municipal Market Advisors, an independent financial research firm. The national average was 1.35 percent.

Matt Fabian, managing director at Municipal Market Advisors, told The Bond Buyer that Jefferson County’s bankruptcy reflected poorly on the state of Alabama as a whole.

Fabian said the state played “a critical, highly adversarial role” in Jefferson County’s debt crisis and that “issuers should assume that other distressed issuers could and would be treated in a similar fashion.”

I am sure that many in state government would take issue with being assigned blame in the county sewer crisis; they’d say the whole ordeal stemmed from corruption and mismanagement at the local level.

The sad truth is that there is plenty of blame to go around. Some county officials were bribed. Others made horrendous decisions. And some state officials, too, stood in the way of legislation that would have helped Jefferson County fix its financial problems.

But it’s useless at this stage to point fingers about what has happened in the past. Our focus now should turn to the future and how to put this sad chapter behind us.

Bankruptcy was never the best way to do that.

In filing for bankruptcy, the Jefferson County Commission walked away from a deal that would have cut the $3.1 billion sewer debt by more than $1 billion.

Why? At the end of the day, Jefferson County will still be required to pay back the sewer debt on some terms, and there’s no guarantee the terms will be sweeter in bankruptcy court. In the meantime, we are paying an exorbitant price for our county leaders’ gamble.

You may think you are paying a high cost for sewer service, but it is nothing compared to what you are paying for lawyers to represent the county in bankruptcy court. Since the bankruptcy filing a little more than a year ago, Jefferson County has spent $15 million in bankruptcy-related legal fees, and it has budgeted another $15 million for this year. We cannot afford to let the legal wrangling continue to play out. It will take years to get final rulings and complete the appeals process.

In the meantime, there’s no way to put a price tag on the damage being inflicted on our good name as a county and as a state. John Archibald’s column is just the latest reminder of the beating our reputation is taking.

Jefferson County’s sewer crisis is the reason I ran for office. I wanted to see the problems resolved in a way befitting the character of the people of Alabama. And I wanted to see the problems resolved in a way that would be least harmful for my children and yours.

Letting the sewer case languish in bankruptcy court fails on both measures.

It’s been more than a year now, and the unpaid sewer debt is still sitting there, while the bankruptcy eats away at our resources, drags down our economic recovery and stains the credit of the whole state.

The longer it drags on, the worse it gets.


We must negotiate an end to the sewer debt crisis – now — and start repairing the damage that has been done to our image and to our prospects for the future.


State Sen. Slade Blackwell