Jefferson County Commission

Food Program Funds Delayed by JeffCo Commission Questions

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson was the lone commissioner to vote against delaying food program funding. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County Commissioners on Tuesday put the brakes on doling out federal money to COVID-prompted food programs.

The agenda for the commission’s committee meeting had three entities that were being considered for awards of American Rescue Plan Act funds. Kikstart Inc.’s award of $725,250 was initially removed from consideration because of questions from the county manager’s office.

Mission Alabama was set to get $64,900 and Christian Service Mission $190,000. Those two also were held up with commissioners asking to hear more about how and where each organization is distributing food.

Commissioner Lashunda Scales moved that all three prospective food suppliers come before the commission, “giving a full presentation of what they are offering the county residents for the services that we are seeking to support,” she said.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the policies and procedures of each organization need to be laid out. Additionally, he expressed a desire to have a standard of accountability.

With four commissioners present, Sheila Tyson cast the lone “no” vote, expressing concern that people may be going without food while the commission delays.

“So let me get a full understanding,” Tyson said. “We’re getting ready to pull these off of the agenda, these programs that will be feeding hungry senior citizens, for our lack of understanding?”

Said Stephens: “I don’t believe anyone’s going to go hungry for this. The questions are real. How many people are we serving now? And in what areas? What days of the week and how are we getting that handled? And is this in addition to what we’re doing? Or is this fulfilling an area that we don’t have filled?”

Justin Smith, an assistant to County Manager Cal Markert, said the entities discussed are the same ones with which the county has sought to establish contracts.

“These are the same ones we’ve been working on since late January, early February,” he said.

Road Work Approved

In another matter, commissioners moved a number of road projects to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting. Some of those were repairs to failed subdivision developments in the county.

Stephens noted there had been as many as 93 failed developments, but Roads and Transportation Director Heather Carter said that number has been greatly reduced.

“We’ve been in a process for several years of going through and accepting the subdivisions and taking what bond money there is available and then completing the roads,” Carter said. “This gets us down to wait. We have several that we’re working with developers now that are interested in coming in behind those original developers and continuing the development. But we’re hopeful that this is the end of the completely failed ones.”

The roads and transportation director said the county has changed its system, mandating that a developer complete required roadwork before permission is granted for lots to be sold.

“We require that the developers complete that infrastructure before we sign the final plat before, legally, those lots exist then to be sold,” she said. “That means that there’s nobody that’s going to be buying a lot on a street that isn’t finished.”

Also moved to the agenda is a project to widen Carson Road. The agreement provides all professional services needed for the design and production of complete roadway plans, including a corridor study, field survey, right-of-way map and tract sketches.