Jeffco Commissioner Says Cities Must Contribute to Have Transit Service

Joe Knight
Jimmie Stephens

Commissioner Joe Knight put cities who are getting bus service courtesy of Jefferson County on notice today that they eventually will need to contribute if they are to have transit service.

Commissioners heard a proposed resolution to increase the requested $100,000 for new or increased services to some areas to $109,207. Knight said somebody’s going to be short next year and expect the county to ante up again.

“We’re going to be the bad guys,” he said during today’s committee meeting. “That County Commission cut your bus service off. That’s what’s going to happen if we don’t get those cities engaged and take care of their citizens.”

Commissioners approved the increase to $109,207, but that came with Knight’s amendment to provide half of that amount in fiscal 2020. Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson argued that the reduction of funding shouldn’t be done yet, but the matter was moved to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting with Knight, Steve Ammons and Jimmie Stephens voting in favor.

Chief Deputy County Manager Walter Jackson said the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority had initially calculated a cost of $127,000 for service to Gardendale and Fultondale, Brighton and Lipscomb.

Commissioners sought to include Fairfield in the areas getting service.

“When the cost was determined for Fairfield, the $100,000 was expected to cover that,” Jackson said. The new routes include one for unincorporated Forestdale that stops at the Walmart in Adamsville.

“We have notified all of those cities that they are going to have to put some skin in the game,” Jackson told commissioners. “We did that from the beginning.”

Knight’s amendment will wean those cities from county transit funding.

“I don’t want these cities to say (transit) is dependent on the county,” Knight said. “It’s got to have cities working. It’s got to have the BJCTA working to get their house in order. I don’t want to be a funding mechanism for that particular service forever.”

Stephens, the commission president, said the county’s support was to the cities, making sure cities that have not had transit service or have had limited transit have the opportunity to participate. He said the proposed funding should take the added routes until February. They can then see if ridership is high enough for them to continue the service.

“If that’s the case, the commission will look at it again and ask for participation from those municipalities,” he said, “and we’ll move forward and serve those citizens together.”

Jackson’s report included instances in which BJCTA had failed to sufficiently charge for service. Stephens said that left transit in a $3 million to $4 million hole per year.

“We cannot subsidize their mismanagement,” the commission president said. “They need to get their house in order. When they get their house in order, we will be a willing partner to serve the citizens of Jefferson County.”

In other matters:

  • A resolution was presented to hire Siena Consulting for six months to assist in the hiring of a new director of human resources following the firing of Michelle Rodrigues. The company is to be paid no more than $200,000 from July 12, 2019 to January 12, 2020.
  • Commissioners were given a report concerning workforce development. Stephens, a former career tech teacher, questioned if Jefferson County’s workforce development program had standards when it comes to placing individuals in jobs.

“You have to have benchmarks,” he said. “We need to have some type of accountability to our program similar to the federal workforce development program.”

  • Knight presented a resolution that requests travel funds again be itemized on the agenda of the commission’s committee meeting. The practice was unceremoniously discontinued some time ago.