Jefferson County Pitches in for Fairfield, Takes Over Maintenance of Major Roadways

Jefferson County commissioner Lashunda Scales flanked by Fairfield City Council President Eddie J. Penny, left, and Mayor Ed May II. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The mayor and City Council of Fairfield agree on very little these days but the two sides were on one accord at the Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday.

The commission approved a through road agreement with the financially challenged city in western Jefferson County, taking over maintenance of the city’s three major roadways – Valley Road, Aaron Aronov Drive and Rutledge Drive – at no cost to the city.

“These roads will be a tremendous impact on the city of Fairfield in terms of our economic development by repairing those roads and providing some good infrastructure for the city,” Council President Eddie J. Penny said. “It will improve the motivation and enthusiasm of the city. We’re deeply appreciative of the County Commission’s work.”

Penny said Fairfield will inventory its other roads and take what funds it has to patch potholes and provide needed striping.

Mayor Ed May II called today’s agreement a fine example of regional cooperation.

“The problems that the city of Fairfield and other municipalities in the area (have) can’t simply (be) resolved from within,” May said. “We’re going to have to have external assistance in order to really get the kind of help that we need and bring the kind of progress that we need.”

The council president said the city is still financially challenged. May called Fairfield’s situation “hopeful for the future.”

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of learning curves that still have to be learned,” the mayor said. “We have opportunities and with new (county) commissioners and elected officials in the area, I believe there are some opportunities on the immediate horizon … to generate revenue and continue to exist.”

Commissioner Lashunda Scales, whose district includes Fairfield, said this latest through road agreement is added proof that Jefferson County is rebounding from its financial challenges of 2013, which ultimately yielded bankruptcy.

“What we could no longer do, we’re in a position to do it and we’re doing it now,” she said. “More municipalities are going to feel that support that we are able to do as a county government. Today for Fairfield is only an example of all the many (actions) we’ve been able to pass so we can better help the citizens of Jefferson County.”

Scales expressed her hope that the county will be able to provide help with other roads in Fairfield.

“We have infrastructure dollars and we’re willing to use those dollars to be able to help in addition to the roads that we’ve adopted today, outside of the three roads,” the commission president pro tem said. “It’s a huge plus for Fairfield because when we’re talking about economic development, you have to have highway accessibility – which is what they have – but you’ve got to have good roads. You’ve got to have good transportation and you’ve got to have good public safety. We’re starting with good roads right now.”

The contentious relationship between the Fairfield mayor and council was more evident following the commission meeting as they assembled in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Patrick J. Ballard, who heard arguments regarding a resolution by the Fairfield council to remove May from office.

Council members passed a resolution that May is no longer mayor because he had not attended council meetings for at least 90 days. After more than an hour, Ballard said he will rule on the case at 9:45 a.m. on Feb.  22. Each side is instructed to file additional briefs two days before he makes his decision.