Jefferson County Commission members received packets from the mayor and council of Fairfield on Tuesday spelling out help that city is seeking from the county.
This isn’t the first time officials from the financially strapped city have talked with commissioners about helping them provide services to the public, particularly concerning public safety. Commissioners last month said they would consider helping the city, but only if the mayor and council members could resolve their differences and present the commission with a joint resolution outlining their request, which they have done.
“I think this is a good opportunity and example of regional cooperation that I think is a real solution not only for Fairfield but the other municipalities in Jefferson County, especially on the western corridor who are experiencing some of the same financial difficulties,” Mayor Ed May said.
That joint message was not lost on County Commission President Jimmie Stephens, who said the administrative and legislative branches of Fairfield are beginning to come together.
“We’re all stronger when we work together,” he said. “We look forward to reading the letter, digesting it and giving them whatever help we can.”
May said assistance with public safety was the top priority on Fairfield’s wish list. That would include some kind of presence by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
May said the city also is requesting help with roads in the city, and the city is seeking grants to bolster its fire department. The request is aimed at getting the city through the current fiscal year.
“We’re not here for handouts,” May said. “We’re not asking the county to take on our responsibility in providing these services (to) our citizens. Then again, we are a part of Jefferson County. With cooperation regionally, we can come up with solutions that will benefit everybody.”
Stephens said he thinks the county can play a role “albeit limited” to supplement Fairfield as it gets back on its feet.
Other western-area cities in the county also are facing financial difficulties and have sought help from the county. In last month’s meeting, it was estimated that it would cost the county $400,000 for the sheriff to cover western Jefferson County, including Fairfield.
Also Tuesday, Human Resources Director Michelle Rodrigues made a report concerning the health insurance of Jefferson County employees and recommended a 3.25 percent rate increase that would be absorbed by the county. Commissioners asked that her report be adjusted to require employees to pay 20 percent to 25 percent of the increase.
Additionally, commissioner David Carrington expressed concern about coverage of a retiree’s spouse in perpetuity. He was told that was an industry standard.
“We have to do some due diligence,” he said. “It would not be the first time I was told something was industry standard or something was blue and it turned out being red. We’ll do our due diligence and go from there.”