Jefferson County Commission

Jefferson County Will Take on Improvements for Medical West Development

Medical West President and CEO Keith Pennington spoke to the Jefferson County Commission on 7/9/2020. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission took a step toward supporting Medical West hospital’s making its new home in McCalla with the rezoning of four parcels bordering Interstate 459.

Today’s action rezones the property from A-1 agricultural to institutional-2. Medical West is an affiliate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System.

The rezoning came with repeated reference to the hospital remaining in unincorporated Jefferson County. Keith Pennington, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, said Medical West is eligible for funds if it is in a rural area, and McCalla meets that definition.

Commissioner Joe Knight noted that the county will be called upon to provide money for infrastructure development for the project. “It would be funding from us that would be dependent that it stays in the (unincorporated) county,” he said. “We don’t want the county to spend a bunch of money and then it gets annexed.”

Deputy county manager Cal Markert said infrastructure work would include the improvements to the intersection of Bell Hill Road and Eastern Valley Road, “and then some additional lanes added to Bell Hill. I would estimate $7 million to $10 million for all of that.”

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said a “call back” provision would be written into any agreement on the project. If the hospital did not meet the terms of the agreement, the money would have to be returned.

“The county is coming out off a great deal of infrastructure improvement … here,” Stephens said. “If for some reason you decide to move that into the city of Bessemer, … we will have a call back provision on that infrastructure work because we wouldn’t be doing our citizens right. That’s the only dog that we have in that hunt.”

Pennington said hospital leadership is applying for roughly $400 million for being in a rural area. “We have talked with (Washington) D.C. and talked with the state,” he said. “That kind of went back and forth with some questions that we can continue to answer. Right now, the only way we qualify for it is to be in unincorporated Jefferson County.”

In another matter, County Manager Tony Petelos told commissioners about discussions with UAB, the Jefferson County Department of Health and Cooper Green Mercy Health System to provide additional testing for COVID-19 with money from the Cares Act.

“There’s been a lot of discussion,” Petelos said. “It’s a moving target. We should have it next week where we’ll be able to share more information.”