Jefferson County Commissioners Stunned by News of Possible Election-Related Expenses

May 16, 2017 — The Jefferson County Commission was jolted Tuesday morning with word of a possible $300,000 bill that could come via a change in election equipment.

Barry Stephenson, chair of the county Board of Registrars, and county manager Tony Petelos said an email received five minutes before the meeting alerted commissioners that an amendment to Senate Bill 108 would assign the cost of tablet-based election equipment to individual counties and cities.

“Conservatively speaking, it would cost us over $300,000 to be done countywide,” Stephenson said during the commission’s committee meeting.  “That’s a lot of money and that’s something the county commissioners would have to weigh from a budgetary standpoint.”

Jefferson County was part of a pilot program conducted during the 2016 presidential election. Two precincts were equipped with electronic poll books, which allowed voters to more quickly go through the line; the apparatus has the entire voting list for the precinct and voters would not have to go to alphabetized lines.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said legislators and lobbyists have been alerted of Jefferson County’s opposition to this bill.

“That’s an unfunded mandate on all the counties within the state of Alabama,” Stephens said. “It causes an undue burden on many of our counties. As it is written now, the Jefferson County Commission is against that.”

Stephenson estimated the county would need 400 to 500 tablets that could do the job, which could cost $400 to $500 or more.


Ensuring Developments and Safety

Tuesday’s consent agenda also included a resolution to add a deposit agreement for the developer of land in the Windsor Parc Residential Community in Bessemer. The developer is one of 90 or so that went bankrupt; the company was acquired by another entity.

Stephens said a dramatic rise in oil prices brought about the company’s shortfall. The deposit should “plug that leak.”

“We will make sure the deposit is there and will be adequate to build out the infrastructure of that particular project,” the commission president said.

Commissioners also heard from Allison Dearing, executive director of One Place Family Justice Center, which recently opened at 1135 14th Avenue South. The one-stop shop for victims and survivors of domestic violence had been located in the district attorney’s office at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

“We feel this space really reflects our values of hospitality, safety, wanting people to have a place to come, rest for a moment and have access to resources,” she said.