Jefferson County, Ala., commissioners Tuesday approved a restructuring agreement with Ambac Assurance Corp. to reduce annual payments that secure $82.5 million of revenue warrants sold in 2006, and to extend the final maturity, according to the Birmingham News.
The deal, which still must be approved by the judge overseeing the county’s bankruptcy case, reportedly would reduce JeffCo’s annual debt payments to between $4 million and $5 million, from $8.3 million. The maturity schedule would be extended to 2037 from 2026.
It is not clear if the deal will repay all principal and interest. A court filing Wednesday indicated that the terms of the restructuring are in outline form, and that the county and Ambac have entered a 90-day standstill agreement to negotiate final terms of the deal.
On Tuesday, the bankruptcy judge, Thomas Bennett granted the county’s motion to delay a decision about whether to reject the Jefferson County Public Building Authority lease securing the warrants until Dec. 28.
Proceeds of the warrants were used to build a county courthouse and jail in Bessemer.
In other action, Bennett on Thursday will hear arguments about closing the county’s indigent hospital emergency room and inpatient services.
The plan to close the hospital for the poor and provide indigent services in other facilities has been challenged by the city of Birmingham and Mayor William Bell.
In late August, county commissioners voted to end inpatient care, and later decided that urgent-care facilities would better serve the needs of the poor.
The Birmingham complaint claims that the planned closure of inpatient and emergency room services at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital by Dec. 1, without having a new structure for delivering health care services in place, violates the Alabama Health Care Responsibility Act.
County attorneys said in a court filing Tuesday that the Alabama Health Care Act does not require Jefferson County to maintain a hospital to provide indigent care.
The county-owned hospital has 319 licensed beds though it averages 65 patients daily. It receives about $40 million annually from a dedicated local sales tax, and has tapped the county’s general fund for another $10 million for operations the past few years.
Commissioners are considering hiring the Pennsylvania consultant Azul Health Group for $208,000 to prepare plans for revamping the health care program.