Jefferson County Commission

Garbage Point of Discussion for Jefferson County Commission

Jefferson County County Manager Cal Markert (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Discussion of garbage segued to garbage of a different sort during Tuesday’s committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission.

The agenda included a resolution to address garbage pickup at county facilities, including the courthouse. The resolution calls for EcoSouth Services of Birmingham to handle county facility garbage collection and disposal for three years for $785,400.

County Manager Cal Markert said that cost is double what it had been. The aim, he said, is to keep coverage in place until proposals can be accepted from other vendors.

“This was just to get coverage for the month of October,” he said. The resolution that moved to Thursday’s commission agenda has a 30-day cancellation provision.

“That’s just for the county’s service, someone to pick up our garbage,” Markert said. “Like everything else, it went up a lot, which led to the discussion of the contract the county provides for the citizens’ garbage service. That’s what we ended up talking about.”

At its June 9 meeting, the commission approved an emergency rate increase for AmWaste, the company contracted to offer residential garbage pickup in unincorporated Jefferson County.

“The last quarter they (AmWaste) based the price on the fuel index in the three previous months,” the county manager said. “The price of fuel has started to go down so we hope next quarter garbage fees will come down a little bit.”

During the meeting, commissioners moved to Thursday’s agenda a pair of resolutions involving federal rental assistance through the Office of Community Services. One allows Community Services to request and accept no more than $5 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP1) funds, the other to request and accept as much as $15 million in ERAP2 dollars. In each case, the federal money came through the State of Alabama.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens again expressed concern that an alternative needs to be in place for when federal money that came in response to the pandemic is no longer provided as plentifully.

“We lift up these people that are not able to pay their rent,” Stephen said. “If you look at it, $70 million (the total ERAP funds coming to the county) is a lot of money. When this money’s gone, do we have anything in place to help these people transition from that hand up?”

Nathan Salter, a grants administrator with the county’s Department of Community Services and Workforce Development, cited the county’s partnership with Birmingham Urban League. He said job opportunities are being sought to help those receiving assistance into positions of self-sufficiency.

Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson added that local agencies had long been providing assistance before the pandemic-generated funds were part of the equation. Additionally, they noted that persons getting help know that what is available is short-term aid.

In another matter, Scales asked Stephens about a letter he signed with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin regarding a tax abatement. She said she would have liked to have known about the letter before it was sent.

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales speaks with commission President JImmie Stephens (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Stephens said the letter deals with lodging fees and taxes from people staying at the Westin Hotel and Sheraton Hotel, which are within the footprint of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Those moneys have contractually gone to the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau for salaries and promotion

“What the letter that I and Mayor Woodfin signed was asking the Convention Bureau to relinquish those taxes and allow them to be placed for a public amphitheater,” the commission president said. “This is something that really didn’t need to get out right now, but here we are.”