Storm Season is Coming and Concord Still Has no Shelter, JeffCo Commissioner Says

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jimmie Stephens said he had had enough.

The president of the Jefferson County Commission made it clear during a meeting Tuesday that he was tired of facing Concord residents with unfulfilled assurances that they would get the storm shelter for which they have waited seven years.

“They lost family members, they lost homes and they’ve waited seven years to get this done and it hasn’t been done yet,” Stephens said in the commission’s committee meeting. “When you live in the Concord community, when you live in the Oak Grove community and you’re looking for a safe place to get out of a storm, it’s not if you’re going to have one it’s when you’re going to have another. It’s hit every time.”

Stephens’ ire was aimed at county manager Tony Petelos and Dr. Frederick Hamilton, director of community and economic development.

The contractor who was building the shelter went bankrupt. The building is up but the roof is not tied in. Petelos said the matter was turned over to a bonding company.

“It takes forever to get that done,” he said, adding that the matter is in the hands of a new contractor.

“The contractor we have now is a very good contractor,” the county manager said. “I have all the faith in the world he’s going to get it done.”

Stephens wasn’t easily satisfied.

“If he’s out there working, OK,” he said. “If he’s not, it doesn’t make any difference how good a contractor he is. If a storm comes through there and someone is injured or worse because of this, it’s not going to be on the commission. It’s going to be on those of you who were instructed to get this done seven years ago. That’s as straight as I can be.”

Commissioner David Carrington noted that the commission has to award contracts to the lowest responsible bidder.

“Maybe we need to be spending more time on responsibility, a proven track record,” he said. “Maybe our bar for responsible is too low.”

After the meeting, Stephens recalled being among volunteers on hand when tornadoes ravaged that and other areas on April 27, 2011.

“We were also there in April of 1998 and there have been numerous storms in between,” he said. “I do not want to go through that again without having all our tools in place to protect these people.”

The commission president said residents in Concord and Adger, who also are awaiting the completion of a storm shelter, have been patient. He said he has attended community meetings in which he told residents the commission is engaged and has a new contractor for the project.

“I don’t see him,” Stephens said. “We have storm season coming up and we have been very fortunate. I do not want these people to go through another tornadic season without the ability to get in out of harm’s way.

“They (contractors) haven’t started yet,” he continued. “That’s the reason I engaged them the way I did. The buck has to stop somewhere, and this commission is fully committed to getting this done. We’re going to make sure our management team understands the seriousness of this to make sure it is done as quickly as possible.”