Continuing in the spirit of participation and cooperation, the Jefferson County Commission today put things in motion for helping The World Games overcome the deficit it had from the 11-day athletic competition held in metro Birmingham in July.
Organizers of The World Games found themselves in a $14 million hole when the international event was done. Commissioners moved to the agenda of Thursday’s meeting a resolution to allot $4 million to The World Games from the American Rescue Plan Act funds that the federal government doled out to deal with needs that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Knight, the commission’s finance committee chairman and liaison to The World Games, said the commission worked diligently, considering every avenue to figure out the best way to help make up the shortfall.
“It doesn’t take away from our general fund dollars,” Knight said. “It doesn’t stop us from paving roads or doing what we need to do in the county. But it’s an avenue that we’ve explored and we’re going to use our ARPA funds to do it.”
Knight said ARPA funds can be used because this situation falls under the category of tourism.
“We already have an agreement in place that we’ve already provided some dollars for,” he said. “We just extended that agreement. That agreement expires, I think, September 30, so we’re under the same auspices that we did before.”
When commissioners met two weeks ago, Sheila Tyson said she would rather provide funds for her constituents. President Jimmie Stephens said he wanted no money to come from paving roads or providing other services to citizens.
Today, the resolutions to provide the additional $4 million to The World Games were moved to Thursday’s agenda with no discussion, much less argument.
“I think the main concern was we don’t want to take general fund dollars that are dedicated to do work for our citizens here in the county … in order to supplement The World Games overruns,” Knight said. “That’s been resolved.”
If Thursday’s resolutions pass, the county will have given $6.5 million for The World Games. The City of Birmingham agreed to give an additional $5 million and the board of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau last week agreed to an additional $1 million.
Knight said the fourth leg of the “four-legged stool” will be corporations coming in and trying to finish it up.
“We weren’t obligated, but we partnered,” Knight said. “We’ve stepped up and did our part and did what we could do and are doing it again. I applaud my commissioners for doing that. We found a pathway to do it that doesn’t hurt the citizens, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Emergency Services Being Discussed
In another matter, Commissioner Steve Ammons gave an update on his committee regarding gaps and challenges in emergency medical service throughout Jefferson County. Those challenges include residents in some areas having to wait an hour for an ambulance, if one ever comes.
Ammons said he and others have had conversations that have been more listening sessions to understand more of the issues.
“We’ve met with the fire chiefs throughout Jefferson County,” he said. “We’ve met with the for-profit ambulance services to understand their hurdles, and we’ve talked to the Jefferson County Department of Health.
“We still have more conversations that we have to have because every conversation leads … to something else that’s an issue,” Ammons continued. “We still have to talk to the Alabama Department of Health and our two-year colleges and our workforce development folks. One of the biggest issues is getting folks to want to be in public service.”
Ammons noted that challenges in EMS go well beyond Jefferson County. It’s a statewide issue.
“There are a number of boxes we have to check to make sure we understand every aspect of it,” he said, “to make certain that we’re doing short-term solutions, mid-term and long-term solutions. We’re making it holistic.”