Brighton Mayor Eddie Cooper threw himself “on the mercy of the commission” Tuesday, requesting surplus grass-cutting and debris removing equipment.
Ultimately, two Jefferson County commissioners – Sandra Little Brown and George Bowman – pledged $5,000 apiece so that Brighton can get the equipment it needs.
“We’re in dire need of any equipment to help clean and move debris,” Cooper told commissioners during their committee meeting. “We throw ourselves on the mercy of the commission this morning to give us any relief. If there’s any road equipment or grass-cutting equipment or debris removing equipment that you have that is available, we thank you for honoring us with it.”
Brown read the resolution from the Brighton council that authorized the mayor to make the request. She said there is tall grass everywhere in Brighton, calling it “horrible.”
Commission President Jimmie Stephens noted that meetings had taken place regarding the creation of a fund in the upcoming budget under roads and transportation to address the needs of distressed cities.
While those discussions are ongoing, he said that such cities must have “skin in the game.” They will have to play some portion of the cost of work that is done by county workers on their city’s behalf. A 75-25 percent split has been discussed, he said.
Commissioner Joe Knight asked whether the county could loan equipment. County manager Tony Petelos said that loaning equipment is “out of the question” because of liability and the cost of maintenance.
Asked what Brighton needs, Cooper cited a zero-turn mower and an arm tractor among the tools his city could use. He estimated that a zero-turn mower costs $3,000 to $5,000.
Heather McLoren-Carter, director of roads and transportation, said the county doesn’t have any surplus zero-turn mowers. Asked if the county had surplus equipment, she replied, “Not that you would thank me for giving you.”
Stephens said help is on the way. Cooper reacted by asking when that help might come.
“If I’m drowning today, tomorrow won’t help save me,” he said.
Stephens repeated that discussions looked toward the next fiscal budget. Brown then offered $5,000 from her discretionary fund. Bowman matched her while Stephens and Knight declined, each saying he had demands from communities in his own district. Commissioner David Carrington was absent as he is attending the U.S. Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C.
After the meeting, Stephens said that, at some point, residents of distressed cities need to say if they want to continue as a municipality or become an unincorporated part of the county.
“It becomes that quality of life issue where it may fall back to the citizens to say, ‘Hey, we may be better off to do A instead of B,” the commission president said. “As I told them today, we are secondary, you (Brighton officials) are primary when it comes to meeting the needs of your citizens. When you can’t fulfill that obligation, we need to step back and look at it to see if you really do need to be a municipality.”
Cooper disagrees with cities like his ceasing to be incorporated. He cites Jefferson County’s recent financial struggles.
“I know the county was at a point when it couldn’t help itself,” he said. “Everyone needs some help from time to time.”