From Businesses Week (h/t Calculated Risk)….
A decision not to make the interest payment would place the county in default and put it one step closer to filing bankruptcy over a $3.2 billion bill linked to years of court-ordered sewer improvements and risky credit arrangements.
Such a move would nearly double the previous record for a municipal bankruptcy, set in 1994 when Orange County, Calif., sought protection over $1.64 billion in debts.
And why did Jefferson County take on such a large debt?
Jefferson County got into trouble after it was forced by the courts to undertake a huge upgrade of its sewage system to meet federal water standards and stop raw and partially treated waste from being dumped into streams.
Acting at the suggestion of outside advisers, the county borrowed money for the project on the bond market in a complex and risky series of transactions. When the mortgage crisis hit and banks began tightening up on their lending, the interest rates on the debt ballooned.
The nearly completed sewer project has been under construction since 1996.