Is Irondale gouging us?

City of Irondale Municipal Complex
City of Irondale Municipal Complex

I may be sorry I wrote this column.

Any time I write a piece that might be perceived as negative to Irondale, I’m attacked by unhappy Irondale citizens. (I respect their pride and loyalty)

However, in this particular case, I don’t know if Irondale is the devil or an angel.

We are in the midst of one of the worst droughts in our state’s history.

Our Birmingham Water Works has announced surcharges of up to 400% with an ominous warning of more punishing penalties to come.

In response the Irondale City Council unanimously approved an agreement for its water system to sell up to 1 million gallons of water a day to our Birmingham Water Works at double the price Irondale Water charges its customers.

Irondale Mayor Tommy Joe Alexander told his city council, “That means if we can furnish them a million [gallons], that’s between $10,000 and $15,000 a day for the city of Irondale.”

The ‘them’ they are talking about are you and me unless you are lucky enough to live in Irondale and reap the financial gain.

I don’t quite know how to feel about this.

As a resident of Vestavia Hills who gets my water from the Birmingham Water Works, should I thank or resent Irondale?

What if we were hungry and desperate for food rather than water and Irondale restaurants colluded to charge outside folks twice as much as Irondale residents?

Or what if the drought lingered and Irondale charged us five or ten times the going rate?  Is two times okay, but five times not?

I’m pretty sure it’s against the law for private companies to price gouge during times of critical shortages.  Is it okay for governments?

But what is Irondale to do?

The City of Birmingham stole Walmart from Irondale by offering $11 million in incentives.

Then Trinity Hospital agreed to relocate to Irondale, but after Irondale paid for site preparation, the City of Birmingham retained them with a $55 million package.

There’s no doubt Irondale is doing the right thing for its citizens.

And we’re probably lucky to have Irondale willing to share its water.

I’m not blaming Irondale for acting responsibly.

I am blaming our multiple competing governments who have created this ‘every man for himself’ culture in order to survive.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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7 thoughts on “Is Irondale gouging us?”

  1. Birmingham came to Irondale.  They presented Irondale with a contract identical to that the BWWB had used with Shelby County water years ago when Shelby County was required to purchase water from BWWB.  Irondale agreed to the BWWB’s offer, as far as I know and understood.  It goes both ways.  The BWWB is purchasing water from Shelby at this time as far as I know.  Irondale may need to purchase from BHAM in the future.  
    The BWWB waited till Lake Purdy was dry to implement any water saving measures to its customers instead of doing it in the early summer.  Not on Irondale.   Lake Purdy only supplies water to BWWB consumers south of Red Mountain. Irondale water will be going to whoever is near wherever it has been decided to connect the systems.  
    Irondale isn’t gouging anyone in my opinion. We were asked to help, and we agreed.  
    The Birmingham citizens should blame the Birmingham City Council for appointing idiots to the BWWB who allowed themselves to get into the situation they are in by doing NOTHING until it was past too late.  Conserving water when your source is dry is too late.  The conservation should have begun months ago.  
    Don’t blame the City that was asked to help and agreed. Blame the jokers running Birmingham and running the Birmingham Water Works Board. They got you into this.
    Also, none of this has anything to do with Walmart or Trinity. That’s a bunch of crap. I see his point; we need to work together for the region. His choice of examples with the water is way off, in my opinion.  Also, the restaurants charging extra to non-residents fantasy is absurd.  I have a lot of respect for the author and what he has done for the area.  This article is reaching, however.

    1. Aaron, thanks for your feedback. I hope it is clear that my intent is not to attack Irondale. I’m trying to make a case that we wouldn’t have to endure these unfortunate situations if we weren’t divided into 37 competing municipalities. I’ve recently written similar pieces about Trussville, Homewood, and Mountain Brook. We’re not bad people–we’re just trying to survive.
      Mountain Brook:
      I welcome your feedback.

  2. David,
    Who knows what Irondale’s water source is? I heard sometime ago that it was getting it from underground sources which might also be the source for the Cahaba River’s water. There needs to be regulation for underground water.

    Also, I’ve also heard from a reliable source that before the drought began that the BWWB lowered Purdy 8′ to make some repairs. Who knows about this?

  3. What is Irondale’s water source? I heard several years ago that it was digging wells for underground water. This could be the same source for the Cahaba River’s water.

    Also I heard from a reliable source (someone who keeps a boat at Lake Purdy) that BWWB had lowered Purdy 8′ before it quit raining to make some repairs. No one has mentioned this in press coverage of the drought.

  4. David,
    You should also note that a large number of Irondale residents are on Birmingham water. If we go over our normal usage of water, we will be charged a 400% surcharge on water sold by our city to Birmingham. BWWB should not have waited until we were in a desperate situation to implement restrictions on water usage. Very poor planning on their part, no surprise. I agree with you that our municipalities should not be competing with one another.
    Mary Derr

  5. I’m dismayed and appalled by the failure in state leadership shown by the lack of a state emergency water management plan.

    I’m dismayed and appalled by the failure in regional leadership who aren’t making the case at the state level for better advance planning.

    I’m thankful that Irondale has the supply they do via their wells. This kind of neglect ruins habitats in the long term.

  6. What’s the background/update on the pipe that will supposedly connect BWW to Inland Lake? Hasn’t it been underway for years? Seems like the BWWB mentioned it during the drought in 2000. What’s the latest? According to the BWW’s website, Inland Lake has 10 times the capacity of Lake Purdy, and is still at 75%, which is a smidge higher than it was at the height of the drought in 2000.

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