Author: Virginia Martin

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Cameras, iPads Part of Plan to Improve Garbage Collection

Birmingham is optimizing its trash pick-up service. The City Council voted Tuesday to approve a three-year contract with Routeware, a software company that will collect and analyze data to determine ways the city’s garbage collection can be more efficient.

“Each day when we have drivers and supervisors leave (work), that’s historic knowledge that walks out the door with them,” Joshua Yates, the city’s director of public works, told the council. “This system will (place) an iPad in the truck, where anybody can sit in that driver’s seat and know exactly the route they’re supposed to be driving … . Consider this the infrastructure backbone for our fleet.”

The software will also include an “accountability” component in the form of video surveillance. Read more.

BWWB Collection Issues Raised During JeffCo Commission Discussion on Sewer Billing

A proposed extension of Jefferson County’s sewer billing relationship with Birmingham Water Works broached a discussion about why customer costs are rising.

County Attorney Theo Lawson told the Jefferson County Commission during Tuesday’s committee meeting that he has been negotiating with the utility company over BWW billing customers both for water and Jefferson County sewer service. Lawson said the current contract expires in December and must be extended six months while those discussions continue.

“We need to maintain the status quo,” Lawson said, “so that we do have collections in place until we can get this squared away.”

Commissioner Sheila Tyson said the dual billing relation has allowed some with BWW to blame Jefferson County for higher customer bills. “The collection method they have isn’t good because if it was, they wouldn’t be overcharging these people,” she said. Read more.

School Grades in Jefferson County Run the Gamut

If all the schools in Jefferson County were graded together, they would have a solid B average. But of course, children don’t attend an amalgamation of schools. The spread of grades that schools in Jefferson County scored on the Alabama Department of Education State Report Card ranges from the top to the bottom. Read more and find scores for your individual schools.

Scales Loses Two Titles as JeffCo Commission Reorganizes

The organizational meeting that followed the swearing in ceremonies for the Jefferson County Commission didn’t include a seating chart.

But Lashunda Scales didn’t need one as she swapped seats with Joe Knight after the commission established its leadership, with Knight succeeding Scales as president pro tempore.

That was one of two positions that Scales no longer has after commissioners did away with subordinate co-chairs of their committees. Scales had been co-chair of the economic development committee chaired by Steve Ammons, who said the change was done to provide greater efficiency.

“It’s just easier to have one commissioner,” he said. “We’re all on the same committee so there’s no need for a co-chair. We’re delivering information to all the commissioners. Since each commissioner is on every committee, then you just have the chair.”

“I’m at peace today because I recognize that a position or title don’t make you who you are,” Scales said in her closing comments. “You empower the position. The position doesn’t empower you.” Read more.

New Bike- and Scooter-Sharing Service OK’d for Birmingham

A new micromobility service has been approved to operate in Birmingham despite open doubt from city councilors that such businesses are worth the trouble. Councilors approved allowing the Lime bike- and scooter-sharing business to operate in the Magic City, although some councilors suggested tightening city ordinances to make sure e-bikes and e-scooters don’t become a public nuisance, particularly if customers leave them randomly on sidewalks and streets rather than returning them. Read more.

City officials want parents to combat gun violence. Community leaders say it’s not that simple.

It’s been 20 years since Shunda Milhouse lost her daughter, April, to gun violence when she was 15 years old.

The mother of six said she finds joy in seeing her daughters happy, but she said the pain of losing a child never goes away.

“It’s almost like time has stopped,” Milhouse said. “I don’t look at it as being 20 years. To me, it’s almost like yesterday.”

Milhouse says April asked to tag along with one of her older sisters for Senior Skip Day. Milhouse said she would usually say no to that kind of thing, but that day she said yes. April and her sister went to a park to meet up with other friends. While they were out, a man in his 20s tried to hit on April, and April said no.

“So she walked away and somehow his ego got bruised,” Milhouse said. “And when she declined to speak with him, he went to the trunk of his car and he got out a gun and he just started shooting in the park and he shot my baby in her back.”

Milhouse said she never expected that something like this would happen to her child.

“A lot of parents say, ‘not my child. This wouldn’t happen in my home,’” Milhouse said. “But little do they know guns are being hidden right there in your home.”

She said in order for things to change — and for fewer shootings to happen — people need to be invested in their community, because when young people are taken care of, they take care of their communities. Read more.

Teens Say Birmingham’s Gun Violence Takes a Heavy Toll

At least 11 students in Birmingham have died due to gun violence since the beginning of the year, and their peers say the ongoing issue causes their mental health to suffer. Read More