Jefferson County Commission

Scales Wants More Money for ClasTran

Lashunda Scales

Commissioner Lashunda Scales wasn’t content to simply talk about approving fiscal 2019 funding for ClasTran. The president pro tem broached the subject of Jefferson County providing more funding to the company charged with providing transportation to many area senior citizens.

“ClasTran, to me, has always been underfunded,” Scales said Tuesday as she chaired the committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission. “Not just necessarily with the county but even with the municipal government I just came from. ClasTran provides a very critical part of our transportation that meets the needs of our seniors (and) those individuals who have disabilities.

“We need to try to get to as many of those cities within our county that we can provide this service to,” she continued. “That was my ultimate concern. Those cities that can’t afford it, can we help offset the cost.”

Scales cited Fairfield, which is in her district, as well as Lipscomb and Brighton from Commissioner Sheila Tyson’s district. Each is a distressed city that has sought relief from the county.

“Those areas are financially challenged yet they have residents who live there who need this kind of service,” Scales said. “What can we do to offset that cost so that we can best protect the constituents who need these kind of services? We want to provide it. What’s the pathway to getting that done?”

Commissioners sent to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting a resolution to pay ClasTran $347,080 to continue providing transportation to and from senior centers in the county. The agreement also calls for ClasTran to provide four field trips for seniors each fiscal year.

Scales said an increase in ClasTran funding will be examined as the 2020 fiscal year draws near.

“At that point, we can still be in process of talking with ClasTran to see what additional services they are willing to provide and at what cost,” she said. “Even if we could not absorb the entire cost, at least we could absorb something more than what we’ve done in the past so our coverage is greater for our citizens.”

Commissioners heard a request from Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church to rezone a parcel from institutional to commercial for a hotel. The property is south of Interstate 459 in McCalla and next to property targeted for the proposed move of UAB West Hospital from Bessemer.

There was no opposition at the meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment but there have been rumblings that there could be some opposition at Thursday’s commission meeting.

During the discussion, Scales was assured that nearby residents, including those in the Letson Farms development, were informed of the requested rezoning.

“As a homeowner, I just believe that we don’t want it to be miscommunicated to the public that big business always wins,” she said. “You want all of the stakeholders who are involved to be very comfortable with the new developments that are occurring, wherever that is.

“Today, I wanted to make sure that community or the integrity of it be preserved,” Scales continued. “And if it were not preserved and there was opposition to it, certainly I would have wanted us to have some kind of conditions in place before we went forward with that motion.”

County manager Tony Petelos said after the meeting that he continues to get weekly updates from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) about the pending demolition of the Interstate 59/20 bridge from the I-65 junction to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway.

Jefferson County contracted with the Birmingham Parking Authority for employees who had parked at locations that will be impacted by the bridge work to the parking deck on Fourth Avenue North and 22ndStreet.

“We put in a shuttle service for employees because it’s going to be very difficult getting around downtown when those bridges come down,” he said. “We had employees who were parking at the Civic Center and Boutwell Auditorium. We’re waiting to see, once the bridges come down, if any schedules as far as opening times. We’ve discussed this with staff and we’ve decided to wait to see once the bridges come down what we can do at that point.”

Petelos said persons seeking county services will be urged to use satellite courthouses when they can. Those services include the renewal of driver’s license, the purchase of car tags and accessing the tax assessor or tax collector.

On another note, Petelos announced that seven years after the county manager’s office was established in a “temporary” space on the second floor, he and his staff are all in one office suite across from the commission chambers.