Whew! Jeffco Commissioners Relieved to Learn They Wouldn’t Be on the Hook for New Election Tablets

Jefferson County commissioners’ concerns that a state Senate bill requiring new election technology would cost the county money proved to be unfounded.

The Alabama County Commission Association had fired off a red alert to county commissions about the possibility that Senate Bill 108 might cost counties.

“It turns out there is some federal money for this that the ACCA was not aware of,” Jefferson County Registrar Barry Stephenson said. “So as far as affecting the general fund of Jefferson County, it doesn’t. It all got worked out.” Read more.

Grand Jury Investigating Local Government to Continue

Jefferson County Presiding Judge Joseph Boohaker said today that he has been told something will come from the state grand jury investigating Birmingham Water Works Board and other aspects of Birmingham and Jefferson County government.

“There will be something coming,” he said. “I have been assured.”

Boohaker recently told BirminghamWatch and other media that he would speak with Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart to determine whether the grand jury should continue.

“It will press on,” the judge said. “I had a chance to speak with Matt Hart and he assured me they are making progress. As long as they’re making progress, they will continue on.” Read more

From Vacant Industrial Land to Puppy Palace? Residents Debate Use of Old Trinity Steel Land in Titusville

Sixty Titusville residents sat in the sweltering gymnasium of Memorial Park Recreation Center to consider giving their support for the old Trinity Steel property going to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.

“It is so hot in here,” said Greater Birmingham Humane Society President and CEO Allison Black Cornelius, “but they stayed.”

When each side had made its case, 52 residents voted for the Humane Society to move to the long idle property from its Snow Drive location in Homewood. Eight voted no. Read more.

Joining Forces: Jeffco Debates Combining Inspections, Storm Water and Development Offices

Jefferson County could someday come close to being a one-stop-shop when it comes to inspections, storm water and land development. Commissioners heard a report during their committee meeting Tuesday morning about merging those three departments, as called for by a federal receiver in charge of the county’s human resources. Read more.

Operation Reveille: Sounding a New Day for Once-Homeless Veterans

Jimmy Moore’s hometown is Bessemer but for three years, the U.S. Air Force veteran’s home was his 2007 Ford Explorer.

Moore, a 1974 McAdory High School grad, worried that his possessions might be stolen when he was homeless. He feared someone might stab him to take what he had.

“You were always having to be awake, 24-7, sleep lightly,” the 61-year-old said, “trying to figure out where you’re going next.”

But Moore can rest easy. He doesn’t fear for his safety or his possessions. He has a roof over his head, thanks to Operation Reveille, a one-day one-stop-shop that took chronically homeless veterans off the street and into their own homes. Read more.

New West End Clinic Takes Health Care to the People, Jefferson County Commissioner Says

March 23, 2017 – Sandra Little Brown called Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting at Cahaba Medical Center “a crying moment.”

The District 7 Jefferson County Commission member said she had to defend herself against false claims that she had voted to end in-patient care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

“We went through so much stress with the closing of in-patient care at Cooper Green,” Brown said during Thursday’s commission meeting. “So many people were against us. Now the people can say, ‘They took lemons and made lemonade.’”
Brown said she has worked since in-patient care at Cooper Green ended to create a hub-and-spoke system to take healthcare closer to where many people live.

Read more.

Jeffco Commissioners Looking Forward to Refinancing School Bonds

Jefferson County Commission members were still giddy at their committee meeting this morning after last Friday’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court concerning a 1 cent sales tax.

“For the first time, this commission can be proactive,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “We can go to purchase property that will be needed and necessary for economic development. We can go to municipalities and say, ‘Let’s partner together to build and restructure our roads and our bridges. Let’s build new highways that will go throughout Jefferson County and create more avenues for economic development.

“For the first time, we can give people a reason to move into Jefferson County instead of moving out of Jefferson County,” the commission president continued. Read more.

Alabama Supreme Court Clears the Way for Jefferson County to Refinance School Bonds

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens summed up an Alabama Supreme Court ruling during a press conference Friday afternoon.

“What’s it mean? It means it’s a great day for the citizens of Jefferson County, for all citizens of Jefferson County,” he said. “It enables Jefferson County to proceed in refinancing the county school tax warrants that is guaranteed by the 1 cent county sales tax.”

Commissioners sought a state law revising that county sales tax law so they could refinance the warrants at a lower price and divide the remaining money from the tax more broadly. A circuit judge struck down that law, but Friday the Alabama Supreme Court upheld it. Read more.

Jefferson County OKs Morgan Road Improvements, Resumes Road Maintenance in Bessemer

March 9, 2017 – Jefferson County Commissioners on Thursday rescinded a 2009 commission resolution to discontinue maintenance on through roads in Bessemer.

The action allows county workers to add a dedicated turning lane from Morgan Road onto northbound Interstate 459, as the commission discussed in its committee meeting Tuesday.

The 2009 resolution was adopted because the county did not have money for such maintenance.

“The easier thing to do was to rescind the agreement,” Stephens said. “Now we go back to doing maintenance on the road just like we did prior to 2009.”

Jefferson County Commissioners Discuss Widening Morgan Road and Revamping Lights to Ease Traffic.

March 7, 2017 – Commuters from Russet Woods and others in southwest Jefferson County may soon have a smoother commute because of action the Jefferson County Commission discussed during its committee meeting today.

Commissioners talked about making improvements to Morgan Road to ease traffic flow, including a turn lane and updated traffic lights.

The commission also discussed a mental health contract, community clean-ups and new voter information cards. The commission’s official meeting is Thursday.

Read more.

JeffCo Commissioners Discuss Cooper Green Contracts, Water Line Project, Other Issues to Come up in Thursday’s Meeting.

February 21, 2017 — Jefferson County Commissioners discussed $105,400 in contracts for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital during a committee meeting Tuesday.

“That goes back to reallocating to make sure we have the funds necessary to have a positive impact on our indigent citizens,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said after the meeting. “This commission is committed to doing that and we’re going to continue to do it.” Read more.

Jefferson County Commission Approves United Way Funding Despite Concerns

The Jefferson County Commission OK’d paying $500,000 to the United Way at its meeting Thursday, but not before commissioners were assured senior citizens are receiving the “top notch” service they should be getting.

Commissioner Sandra Little Brown asked that approval of the funding be delayed so she could pose questions to United Way officials who were on hand. She said she had received numerous calls about people not getting services they had received before.

Fairness and Safety. Education and Jobs. Similar Worries for Clinton and Trump Voters

(In the early days of a new president, BirminghamWatch is looking at what divides us and connects us close to home. This is the third of the stories.)

On face value, the political and cultural divide in the Birmingham metro area — and, in larger part, the country — appears to be an ever-widening gulf of competing ideals and values.

But if you take a closer look, you will see that supporters of President Donald Trump and of Hillary Clinton say they want many of the same things from government — fairness, safety and the support to achieve greater success. They value church and family, education and freedom. And they express feelings of disenchantment. Both sides complain of feeling left out, unheard and overlooked.

Birmingham residents, like many interviewed in the Sylvan Springs area for a recent story on Trump Country, said it is important for government to treat people fairly and justly. Many said they want the government to make safety a priority. Read more.

Other stories from this series:
From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”
A Big Blue Dot in a Sea of Red. But Jefferson County’s Presidential Vote Tally Masks Deep Community Divisions

Heavy Turnout Spurs Long Lines but No Major Problems at the Polls

A contentious presidential race drove heavy turnout at the polls Tuesday, causing long lines at some polling places and periodic glitches with voting machines and routines.

As of late Tuesday night, almost 1.9 million ballots had been tallied, with 60 of 67 counties having reported their results, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website. But the state had slightly higher turnout in 2008 and 2012. Almost 2.1 million people voted in each of those years.

A surge in voter registration teased election officials with the prospect of record voter turnout, but it was not to be.

Still, turnout was heavy Tuesday, and people from across the state reported having to stand in line for three hours or more to cast their ballots. Read more.