Jeffco Commission to Get Information on County’s Stimulus Money

Jefferson County Commission members continued to practice social distancing during their committee meeting today. Commission President Jimmie Stephens, Commissioner Joe Knight and County Manager Tony Petelos were among those in the meeting room. Commissioner Steve Ammons and County Attorney Theo Lawson were in their courthouse offices while commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson were in their respective homes. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission is likely to go into executive session at its meeting Thursday to get information about the $115 million in stimulus money it received to help the county deal with the effects of the novel coronavirus.

The subject came up during today’s commission committee meeting.

“There has been lots of information that has come out regarding the use and expenditure of these funds,” said County Attorney Theo Lawson, “and the way that it will be looked at in terms of illegal spending and potential exposure that we have or may not have depending on how we use those funds.”

“The ultimate accountability for the expenditure of these funds and eligibility of that is going to rest solely with the county,” Lawson said later. “With that in mind, we expect to provide you with some legal advice and guidance to ensure that is properly handled to help you out to appropriately administer policy.”

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said there will be little dialogue exchanged during the executive session.

“We cannot deliberate at all,” he said. “We can receive information and then either go back into regular session, and either act on it, or act on it at a later time.”

Despite the courthouse having been reopened to the public, commissioners continued to practice social distancing, with three of them participating in the meeting via Zoom teleconference.

The meeting was streamed live on Facebook. When asked, Lawson said he would advise against conducting the executive session via Zoom.

“That would not be my recommendation,” he said. “That’s not something I would recommend or would be requesting.”

That means Thursday’s meeting will the first during which all of the commissioners are in the same room since they declared a state of emergency.

Commissioners today moved to Thursday’s agenda an amendment to end its partnership with the City of Birmingham in the Economic Developing Administration Revolving Loan Fund.

Dr. Frederick Hamilton, director of community and economic development, said Birmingham had been responsible for running the program in the Birmingham city limits.

“They have not made a loan, I believe, going back to about 2007 and they have a high level of default,” Hamilton said. “They’ve made the decision to withdraw from the program. This basically gives us the opportunity to take the actions to withdraw them from the program.”

Birmingham will be paid back $792,212 and the city will return $35,000 to EDA.

Hamilton said Jefferson County has provided several loans through the program, and the default rate on those loans is very low during the past few years.

“We’ll have probably $700,000 or $800,000 to continue along through our consortium,” Hamilton said. “We’re right now actively trying to find businesses that are dealing with this COVID-19 to participate in this program because it’s a very good thing. We’re not competing with the banks, basically. What we’re trying to do is create jobs for low- and moderate-income people.

“It’s basically to stimulate the economy,” he continued, adding that the intertest rate on those loans is 75% of the prime lending rate as defined by the Wall Street Journal.

In other matters, commissioners moved to the agenda:

  • Resolutions for temporary salary increases for Helen Hays, the county public information officer, and IT director Sri Karra, because of their increased responsibilities related to COVID-19 response.
  • A resolution extending the employment agreement of Monique Grier, the juvenile detention director, through April 30, 2022, at an annual salary of $130,000.