The Jefferson County Commission waded back into the issue of small cities’ providing for their residents after learning that the air conditioners at Brighton’s senior center were not working and seniors were being subjected to 90-degree temperatures.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens brought up the issue after seeing a Fox 6 News report about conditions at the center. Stephens said he tried to arrange for the county to get involved with the situation but was told by staff members that it was outside the county’s purview.
He and Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said during Tuesday’s committee meeting that they were holding Brighton accountable for fixing the problem.
“I’m going to hold it squarely on Brighton’s shoulders,” Stephens said. “You need to do your job. You need to replace that air conditioner and you need to take care of these citizens.”
But Brighton has not asked for the county’s help with the air conditioners and is working to resolve the issue. Brighton Mayor Eddie Cooper, contacted later by BirminghamWatch, said the air conditioning problem arose from at least two cases of vandalism of the units at the senior center.
“I’m dealing with it but it didn’t happen under my administration,” said Cooper, who took office in November. “It’s still a city of Brighton problem and that’s why I’m dealing with it. It’s something that’s going on in the city now and we have to deal with it now.
The issue of small cities needing county help has come up several times recently, including Brighton seeking county help to acquire grass-cutting and debris-removal equipment. The county did not provide official help with the problem, but Brown and Commissioner George Bowman offered the city money from their discretionary accounts.
Stephens said then that county officials were talking about establishing a fund in next year’s budget that would provide money to help distressed cities provide services for their residents. But he said cities could not solely rely on the county and needed to have “skin in the game.”
Brown reiterated that idea Tuesday, saying Brighton’s government “has to get their act together.”
“There are certain things that they have jurisdiction over that the county does not and they have to take care of it,” she said. “The Brighton government has to keep insurance on buildings if they want us to go in there and renovate and do all sorts of stuff.”
Brown was referring to a planned expansion of the city’s community center to accommodate senior activities, which was delayed while Brighton arranged to get insurance on the structure. The county is helping with that project, but without insurance, the county could not use HUD funds toward the expansion.
Tuesday’s committee agenda included allotting $41,742 for Sentell Engineering to perform design work on expanding the community center. Fixing the air conditioners is not part of that project.