Jefferson County Commission

Jefferson County Proposes to Add Weapon in War on Bingo, but What Is It?

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales was rebuffed when she asked for information about a bingo-related resolution she’ll be asked to vote on Thursday. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: Bingo is not legal in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Thursday’s Jefferson County Commission meeting could bring a new weapon in the county’s war against the activity. But Commission President Jimmie Stephens and County Attorney Theo Lawson are keeping their cards close to their vest following today’s commission committee meeting.

While the committee agenda included a proposed resolution regarding illegal bingo in unincorporated Jefferson County, Stephens said the resolution wasn’t precisely about bingo.

“It’s (about) the enforcement of Jefferson County’s zoning ordinances,” he said. “Those businesses that are not in compliance with those zoning ordinances and in other areas within Jefferson County’s jurisdiction, we want to uniformly enforce all laws and zoning ordinances. That’s what this system does. It puts that in place.”

When asked for specifics of the resolution, Lawson was similarly close-lipped.

“We would not want to discuss all of our legal strategies until they’ve been filed,” he said. “They’ll become public once they’re addressed. There is some authority that was already vested and authorized, but there are certain other strategies that we wanted to make sure that we get direction to proceed.

“Several, several actions are already authorized, and we’ll continue to move forward.”

Commissioner Lashunda Scales repeatedly sought clarity about the specifics of the plan. She asked who has the authority to enforce the measure, as well as the cost of enforcement.

Scales expressed concern that citizens could be negatively impacted by the action. Lawson said the measure would affect only owners and operators of bingo halls operating in unincorporated Jefferson County.

The matter was placed on the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting, with Stephens and Commissioner Joe Knight voting in favor, Commissioner Sheila Tyson voting no and Scales abstaining. Commissioner Steve Ammons was absent.

Stephens said the upcoming action is not a surprise attack.

“Notices have been issued and all entities have been warned,”
the commission president said. “There should be no surprises.”

Lawson added: “Bingo operations operating in unincorporated Jefferson County have been notified that they’re in violation.”

Rental Assistance, Health Care Authority

Commissioners also moved to the agenda of Thursday’s meeting a resolution allocating the remaining unobligated funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to Bridge Ministries. That action allows the county to meet the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Sept. 30 deadline for spending in addition to allocating the $5 million voluntary reallocation from the state of Alabama.

Jefferson County previously terminated its agreement with Neighborhood Housing.

The names of Tyson and County Manager Cal Markert were placed on the agenda to be appointed to the board of the Health Care Authority. The terms of former County Manager Tony Petelos and Tyson expire in September.