Jeffco Commission Debates Giving Fultondale the Cold Shoulder Over Unpaid $15M Debt

Commissioner David Carrington confers with a commission staffer before the March 20, 2018 meeting. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

March 20, 2018 — Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington said Tuesday that continuing to do business with a city that hasn’t paid its bill to the county is not good business.

“It might be good politics but it’s not good business,” Carrington said. He was referring to Fultondale, which he said had not paid more than $15 million owed to the county.

Carrington made his point as commissioners in their Tuesday committee meeting discussed a through road agreement with Fultondale. He said Jefferson County participated with Fultondale on an economic development project in the city.

“We were supposed to be paid out of revenues from the development, and the city of Fultondale still owes the county north of $15 million and hasn’t paid anything since 2016,” Carrington said. “They had paid prior to 2016 (and) we have attempted to collect the monies.”

Other commissioners argued that there is a difference between the county’s actions to benefit citizens versus its dealings with a government entity.

“You have two separate issues,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “One will affect the citizens and the other is dealing directly with the municipality. You have to separate those issues and keep them compartmentalized. You don’t want to harm the citizens because of the actions or inactions of a particular municipality.

“It’s a county through road we’re responsible for,” Stephens continued. “To hold those hostage over a financial issue that is entirely separate doesn’t seem to be proper.”

Carrington withdrew his objection to the through road agreement but then moved to authorize the county attorney to take action against Fultondale for the unpaid funds. That action passed.

“I fully understand the benefits of through road agreements,” Carrington said. “I just have a concern when you basically give someone a pass for monies that they owe you. We wouldn’t do it if a business had not paid us. We wouldn’t give them another contract to cooperate with them.

“I think as a general principle, business principles should be applied in government,” he said. “I ran on that in 2004 and I stand on that today.”