Jefferson County Commission

Scales Alleges She’s Left Out of Development Planning Despite Being Vice Chair of the Committee

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales (foreground) was not pleased with Commissioner State Ammons in the Aug. 4, 2020 Committee meeting. (Photo by: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales said she’s been left in the dark concerning development projects despite being vice chairwoman of the development committee.

Commissioner Steve Ammons is chairman of the development committee.

“This is the second project that I’m being made aware of at the meeting,” she told Ammons during today’s committee meeting. “The only thing I hear about is what’s in my district. I’m saying I didn’t have any background information about this project, period.

“I will keep saying it for the record because we have a resolution that you eventually (are) going to have to adhere to, which is (the) fact I need to know what’s going on.”

Ammons said he’s tried to talk to Scales and has tried to set up a meeting with her to provide an overview of development projects “but you failed to respond.”

Scales balked at that response, saying she is responsive. Ammons countered by saying, “I’m tired of you talking over me and trying to lie about what I do.”

Development attorney Trey Hill presented a proposal for Next Chapter Properties, a Chicago-based developer and manager of student apartment communities near major universities. The company is looking to develop property near the University of Alabama at Birmingham, building apartments bordered by 13th and 14th Streets South and Fourth and Fifth Avenues South.

“What they’re looking to do is to build a seven-story residential student housing complex,” Hill said. “It will deliver 169 apartment units, and it’s set to house 400 residents. It will have a host of related amenities — sun room, bicycle parking, fitness center, courtyard, pool, rooftop terrace.”

The developer is seeking brownfield abatement of non-educational property taxes for four years. It is estimated that the brownfield remediation will exceed $1 million. The total capital investment is estimated to be $55,275,000 and will have an approximate 24-month­ construction period.

If the commission approves the development at its meeting Thursday, it would abate $67,293 in sale/use taxes and $578,139 in brownfield property taxes. The City of Birmingham has been asked to approve $134,586 in sales/use taxes and $601,442 in brownfield property taxes. The State of Alabama is being asked to abate $269,171 in sales/use taxes and $370,541 in brownfield property taxes.

The estimated revenue to Jefferson County from the project is $2,950,464 over 10 years.

Scales, like her fellow commissioners, voted to move the matter to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting. She cautioned that this is yet another project that involves UAB and that other colleges and universities in Jefferson County should also receive aid.

Scales cited Lawson State Community College, Jefferson State Community College, Miles College and Birmingham-Southern College.

“We are one county that has many parts and if you starve out the other parts, eventually they will die,” she said.

Ammons said a lot of projects come to the county because developers target specific sites.

“We don’t always select (projects),” he said. “I would love to talk to Lawson or Miles or Jeff State. If they have something that they want to do, I would absolutely, I think all of us, would appreciate that.”

Sewer and Coronavirus Funds

In another discussion, Scales urged her fellow commissioners to establish a third-party partner to distribute the $1.25 million that was set aside in the 2019 budget to assist people who struggle to pay rising sewer bills caused by the county’s settlement to escape bankruptcy.

“We have funding to support programs that can actually meet the needs of everyday citizens,” she said.

Finance Committee Chairman Joe Knight said that if the matter isn’t addressed during this fiscal year, it will be included in the 2020 budget.

County Manager Tony Petelos presented resolutions doling out funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund via the Cares Act. Those resolutions, which were moved to Thursday’s agenda, call for:

  • An outdoor booking station for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, not to exceed $88,078.35.
  • The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department’s purchase of three sets of commercial washer/dryers and body scanners at two locations, not to exceed $374,234.59.
  • The purchase of a non-contact ID bracelet system for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, not to exceed $33,918.21.
  • Disinfection of Correctional Facilities, not to exceed $254,000.
  • Execution of agreement with the Rocky Ridge Fire District in an amount not to exceed $55,561.89 to fund EMS expenses.
  • Glass barriers for the Vestavia Police Department, costing $4,000.
  • $4,562.85 for the Mountain Brook Police to fund glass barriers, PPE, cleaning and sanitation, and telework expenses.
  • $1,645,000 to purchase 47 vehicles for the roads and transportation department to allow social distancing.
  • Purchase equipment for fire districts and volunteer departments serving unincorporated Jefferson County. This proposal would allocate $1,824,914.88 to purchase 32 Lucas Mechanical CPR devices and 32 LifePak 15 Cardiac Monitors in accordance with the eligibility review memo.
  • Jefferson County E-911 Communications District to get an amount not to exceed $106,683.31 to reimburse for staff costs and equipment purchased due to COVID-19.
  • 25 more beds to provide for the UAB COVID 19 Nursing Home Initiative. This would bring the allotted beds for nursing home residents who contract the virus to 50 at a total amended cost of $4,397,300.