Jefferson County Officials Meet With Cooper Green Workers About Health Care Authority

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Tony Petelos told the Jefferson County Commission Tuesday that he and others would meet Wednesday with employees of Cooper Green Mercy Health Service in the next step toward its transition to a health authority.

The county manager said the employee meetings will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until about noon in the Cooper Green cafeteria.

“We’ll have people with UAB and also our payroll folks talking about the transition,” Petelos said. “We’ve moved the transition date to approximately April 1st. We’ll talk about the benefits and all the benefits will be transferring over to the health care authority.”

Commissioner Lashunda Scales asked and Petelos confirmed that employees will no longer be under the merit system of Jefferson County. Commissioner Sheila Tyson said her concerns have been for the care of patients and the ability of employees who have worked there to keep their retirement benefits.

“I wanted to make sure that both of those things happen,” she said. “In the contract right now – I read it again this morning – it is actually in the contract for the employees to keep their retirement benefits and for the patients to get better care than they were getting before.”

Also Tuesday, commissioners began the process of reallocating public service fund grant money they initially budgeted to Urban Ministry. The funds – $12,500 apiece – will, instead, go to the Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens Maintenance and Perpetual Care Inc. and Ursula Dance.

Tyson was particularly passionate about providing funds for the continued upkeep of Shadow Lawn, a cemetery in Birmingham’s Mason City Neighborhood. She said the property was abandoned in the early 2000s, after the owner was sued.

“Over the years, (there were) overgrown lots and, by the property holding so much water, it started uplifting the caskets out of the ground,” Tyson said. “The community was very concerned. We started getting volunteers to go out and start a cleanup.

“It was so bad we couldn’t do it on our own because of the height of the grass,” she continued. “We got a lot of (others) to come out and help us.”

Commissioners said the Legislature passed a bill to provide for abandoned cemeteries in the county with money coming from the sale of pistol permits. Tyson said Shadow Lawn is on the bottom of a list of about 50 cemeteries.

“Me and Mr. Petelos will actually meet with the board and see if we can move up Shadow Lawn because of the historical value in the community,” she said, noting that the great-great-grandfather of former first lady Michelle Obama is among those buried at Shadow Lawn.

In another matter, commissioners moved to Thursday’s agenda the county’s agreement renewal with the Everbridge notification system. Chris Tate, an emergency management officer with the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency, said Shelby County was added to the system this year.

“That just expands the footprint that we have for this notification system,” he said. “It is used for us to disseminate warning information to all the citizens of Jefferson County, as well as internal information to county personnel, city personnel in the event they need to pass along pertinent information.”