Jefferson County commissioners said during their committee meeting Tuesday that they want to be informed about federal rescue funds that they ultimately will be asked to approve.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens told County Manager Cal Markert that the commission wants to know who has applied for the latest brand of COVID funds from the federal government and where those applications are in the system of approval.
“Commissioners … want to make sure that the County Commission was on the front end of that, instead of the rear end, which was just the approval process after it had been done,” Stephens said. “We’re looking to see which entities have applied for rescue funds and where in that approval process they are.
“I said today (that) we need to get these dollars in the hands of the citizens as soon as possible,” the commissioner continued. “Those that are approved through the Witt O’Brien process and appear to be a slam dunk, let’s move them through and get it out in the hands of the citizens. If you get a maybe, we can hold off for our final Treasury Department ruling.”
Jefferson County continues to receive advice from Witt O’Brien, a consulting firm, in determining which requests for federal funds meet established guidelines.
Markert said the issue has been the wait for the final rules of how to spend the money from the Department of Treasury. He said the department announced about a week ago that it will be a while before final rules are distributed, adding that agencies like the county commission are OK to spend some of the money based on the preliminary guidance.
“We’ve kind of been in a holding pattern and we just got this letter so we want to break it open for discussion and get started on the items we know can meet the preliminary criteria,” he said. “We’ve only got half the money at this point anyway.”
The county manager said he thinks the county will have four years to spend the total allotment, with no time limit on the first half.
“We’re expecting the final guidelines to be in, we hope, maybe toward December,” he said. “You want to make sure you know the rules before you spend it because we just don’t want to have to give it back. Most of the items we’ll be spending it on will be outside of our normal operations. If we have to give that money back, it’s gonna have to come out of our general fund budget.”
USFL Deal Coming to the Table
Commissioners moved to the agenda of Thursday’s meeting the final payment of its fifth and final installment of $500,000 for World Games 2022.
Commissioner Joe Knight, the commission’s liaison to the World Games, also provided some background on the possible return of the United States Football League.
Knight, who is on the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Fox Sports wants to resurrect the USFL league with eight teams that will all play in Birmingham.
“They will play all the games here at Protective Stadium and it’s a made-for-TV event,” Knight said. “It’s like an eight- or 10-week schedule but all the teams will be housed here and they’ll play all the games at Protective or at Legion Field.”
Knight said he will learn more about the possible deal when the bureau meets at 10 a.m. Thursday. “I’ll be hightailing it back from Bessemer,” he said, referring to the commission meeting at the Bessemer Cutoff Courthouse.
Knight said it will be a coup if the resurrected USFL lands in Birmingham.
“I don’t see the downside,” he said, noting that the frequent TV shots of Birmingham’s skyline would promote the city. “We’re still in negotiations. The BJCC’s doing something and we’ll decide on Thursday what we can do at the convention bureau. Then it will come to the county and I think some of my (fellow) commissioners may not be as interested as I am.”
Tyson Giving to ASU, A&M
In another matter, Commissioner Sheila Tyson expressed her plan to give $50,000 apiece to Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University.
“Both of the schools are in dire need,” Tyson said. “And along with that, besides the students and the school needing the money, (the Magic City Classic) brings in over $25 million worth of taxes that feed into Jefferson County.”
The Magic City Classic, the annual football game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M, will be played Oct. 30 at Legion Field. The game is the centerpiece of a week of events that brings thousands of fans to Birmingham.