JeffCo Commissioners to Vote Thursday on Morgan Road Widening, Discusses Sewer Spill

Commission President Jimmie Stephens, (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission sent a funding agreement for Morgan Road improvements to the agenda of its Thursday meeting.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said those improvements, which include making the road a five-lane thoroughfare from Interstate 459 to the Jefferson-Shelby counties line at Shades Crest Road, have been 22 years in the making.

“That’ll make it much more convenient for the 14,000 cars that travel it daily,” Stephens said. “It’s going to be much, much better when it’s completed.”

The agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation will be for $2.4 million.

The widening of Morgan Road is just part of what is happening to that thoroughfare. The road is being repaved north of I-459 to Alabama 150, and county staffers are working on traffic control under the interstate.

“Exciting things are happening and it’s an important area of the county,” Stephens said during this morning’s commission committee meeting. “We look forward to giving them the infrastructure so they can get to and from school and work in an efficient manner.”

Sewer Spill

David Denard, director of environmental services, addressed the sewer spill that occurred Friday at the Village Creek Treatment Plant.

“We responded very quickly,” he said. “We felt with the weekend coming and the amount of contact the public has with Bayview Lake, it was a good idea to make sure the public knew and that they limited contact to Bayview Lake and that stretch of Village Creek.”

“We had a gate that failed,” Denard explained. “It took about 10 to 15 minutes for the gate to be restored but in that time, with the amount of flow that was coming from the Village Creek plant, we estimated it to be about 80,000 gallons. We want to be very protective of public health.”

Notices were circulated and county employees monitored the water quality through the weekend.

“Everything we’ve seen through today is that the background levels in Village Creek and Bayview Lake are both at normal levels,” Denard said. “We’ve removed the notice and we think it’s safe for the public to be in Bayview Lake and Village Creek to the degree that they have before.”

Sewer Plant Odors

Denard was also asked about odors that can rise from sewer treatment facilities. He acknowledged that county treatment plants are in urban areas and very close to neighborhoods.

“We want to be good neighbors so we do what we can to try to limit the odors while operating the plants,” the environmental services director said. ‘We invest a lot of money in making sure the processes work right. We put in odor control at the Village Creek plant, and we have a couple of projects that’ll be finishing up in the next couple of months we think will improve the odors.”

New UAB-Area Apartments

Brian Wolfe, chief development officer of Corporate Realty, spoke to commissioners, seeking a tax abatement for a student housing project across 14th Street South from Railroad Park.

It is well positioned for student housing, Wolfe said, noting the rising need for student housing at UAB.

Brian Wolfe of Corporate Realty speaks to the Jefferson County Commission on May 21, 2019. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

“UAB broke through their 2020 admission goal in early 2017 when they reached 20,000 students in the undergraduate population,” the developer said. “They’ve been adding 500 to 700 students ever since then. Their goal is to hit the 25,000 mark in very short order.”

Wolfe added that the university is consciously growing its international student population, which has a very big need for student housing.

“Those students are very much in need of fully furnished student housing, which is exactly what we’re doing on this site,” Wolfe said. “UAB currently has one more dorm project planned on their campus. It will deliver next year, but beyond that they don’t have any more plans. They’ll be looking to the private sector to expand and create more opportunities for students to be closer to their campus.”

The request for abatement came largely because the property is a brownfield and soil must be taken away. The project is expected to cost about $64 million. The matter was sent to Thursday’s agenda.

 Grow Jeffco

Also sent to Thursday’s agenda was a resolution for the county to pay $50,000 to fund Grow Jeffco, an initiative of Create Birmingham.

“It’s a combination of many nonprofits in Jefferson County,” Stephens said of Grow Jeffco. “It would give the county the ability to make one line item allocation to our budget.”

The commission president said checks and balances are in place within Grow Jeffco to assure funds are used appropriately. “If anything were proved to be inappropriate, the county has the ability to withdraw the funding,” Stephens said, “and hold them accountable for what they did.”