Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens closed today’s commission meeting with gratitude for county employees and staff who fought their way through the “wartime” environment of the pandemic.
“It was a wartime atmosphere,” Stephens said. “We were at war with this virus. It actually changed our day-to-day lives and how we conducted business. I wanted to commend and thank our county commission and our county staff for being able to stay on top of this wartime environment and to be able to win as many battles as we have.
“Now, hopefully, we’ve gotten to near the end of the war,” he said. “Once we reach herd immunity, I will declare from the dais that we have achieved victory.”
Stephens said it’s great that the county has been able to administer public services that citizens need and demand. He noted that many staffers are working from home and many are pulling extra shifts.
“It makes for a difficult environment that these people have been able to work through and to meet the needs of our citizens,” he said. “It’s time we said, ‘Thank you.’”
Stephens added he doesn’t want a continuation of the “new normal” that has come as a result of the pandemic. He’s looking forward to again being able to assemble in large groups.
“When we reach herd immunity with the vaccinations, we need to go back to Alabama football as it should be, Auburn football, Miles College, UAB,” he said. “Our society is a social society. We have to interact in order to have the type of happiness and success that everyone demands. I think we need to go back to that form of normalcy to be able to move forward.”
Storm Shelters, Animal Shelter
As commissioners spoke near the end of the meeting, Joe Knight acknowledged repeated requests for storm shelters from various communities throughout the county. He said the process of getting a storm shelter is long, especially if one is relying on federal dollars.
“But we’re putting together a plan now where we’re allocating county dollars,” said Knight, who chairs the commission’s finance committee. “We budgeted it this year and then last year we carried it over. We’re doing some of the regular storm shelters — the half shell shelters — in a couple of places. We’re going to continue to do that until we can get a storm shelter as close to every community as possible.”
Knight said some have asked why they can’t get the “Taj Mahal … $1 million-plus shelters” that were built following the wave of tornadoes that struck April 27, 2011. One had to be affected by those storms to qualify for those federal funds.
Knight added that the county is “very close” to getting an agreement signed to purchase the property for a new animal control facility.
“We’ve already done plans to build it,” he said. “Once we get an agreement with U.S. Steel, Greater Birmingham Humane Society and us as to allocate which parcels or lots that we’re going to purchase … we’ll sign it off and then we’ll purchase that property and we’ll be ready to go on that.”