Let's clean out the notebook ...• We are going to have a number of swearing-in ceremonies, public and private, over the next few days, starting this afternoon. At today's Walker County Board of …
Let's clean out the notebook ...
• We are going to have a number of swearing-in ceremonies, public and private, over the next few days, starting this afternoon. At today's Walker County Board of Edcucation meeting, set for 4:30 p.m. at the board's meeting chambers, Joel Hagood will be sworn in for his full elected term. You will recall his predecessor resigned after the election, and Hagood was picked to be the interim. (So he was both Interim Superintendent Joel Hagood and Superintendent-elect Joel Hagood, and don't ask me which we should have used because I still don't know. I'm just glad he's now just superintendent.)
Meanwhile, District Judge Greg Williams says he will have a public ceremony Friday at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom C on the first floor of the annex building.
Monday will be a big day. Our Ron Harris will be in Montgomery for the inauguration of Gov. Kay Ivey and a number of other top state officials. (The Jasper High School band will be in the parade, so he will also be there for that.)
Meanwhile, back in Jasper on Monday, Probate Judge-elect A. Lee Tucker will be sworn in by the retiring Probate Judge Rick Allison at noon on the Walker County Courthouse steps. (Rain will drive the event to Elliott's courtroom, but that looks less likely; temps in the mid-40s as a high.) Refreshments will follow at the Probate Judge's Office.
Once that settles down, it will almost be time for the 2 p.m. swear-in Monday of Nick Smith as the new sheriff. That will take place at District Judge Henry Allred's courtroom.
• By the way, it finally just dawned on me that a week later, on Sunday, Jan. 20, will mark the exact halfway point of Donald Trump's current term of office. You can bet if the shutdown is still going on the major news outlets will have a field day framing the anniversary with that shutdown. And the next day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events will be held, and I can't imagine the anniversary and any ongoing shutdown will be ignored in speeches around the country.
• Keep in mind that if you go to Carbon Hill City Hall for a council meeting tonight, you will be pretty alone. The council's new meeting schedule goes into effect this month, on the second and fourth Monday of the month, meaning the next meeting will be on Jan. 14.
For that matter, on Monday when the Walker County Commission set Jan. 21 for its next night meeting, officials completely forgot the MLK holiday. (I get addled enough after the holidays, so I can't say anything.) On Tuesday they called saying it would now be held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m.
• At Monday's commission meeting, Chairman Jerry Bishop's humor was on display when he skipped an appointment on the agenda for the Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center Board of Directors and went straight to another one that involved Sheriff-elect Nick Smith. When it was pointed out, he turned to Smith.
"Sorry, sheriff. I tried to put you on both boards," he said. "You'll probably wish you were on that mental health board by the time you get through your four years."
• The 5 percent increase in county revenue and the 11 percent reduction in expenses, as far as the first quarter, is rather encouraging for the county. There is a growing feeling that the county may be slowly righting the ship that the idea of a tax increase may become a moot issue (if it wasn't already moot by other municipalities acting on their own tax increases). If the Legislature increases the gas tax, with a share going to the counties, then this will give additional cushion. I personally think the county needs to sell a modest county property tax increase to provide some of its own cushion as it has no sales tax to call its own, but we are in the bottom half of the term now. That may be an idea for a new commission in 2021.
I only hate Randy Dodd, who worked part time for the county for less than a year, is taking a better position in Jefferson County, as he was very instrumental for the commission in updating records and offering financial analysis. However, I understand it was a better situation that works around his retirement, so I can't blame him, and neither did the local officials.
• I noted on my Wells Fargo app an alert that the bank is "here to help customers experiencing hardship resulting from the federal government shutdown," and customers may even qualify for forbearance or other payment assistance programs.
(I should say that we checked with one federal worker we knew from this area but lives elsewhere now, and they were afraid to say anything for fear of running afoul of others. I imagine a lot of them are in that boat - although we wouldn't mind talking to any federal worker on furlough who would like to talk.)
• I was greatly heartened about hearing Jasper Mayor David O'Mary mention on Tuesday to the Jasper Rotary Club the efforts to bring Wi-Fi to downtown Jasper. As many people as the entertainment district brings in from outside areas, including Birmingham, and with as many people who work on laptops in restaurants and other work places, I think it is vital for a city to look for bringing Wi-Fi to its downtown.
I also have to say the city finances are impressive. I am gobsmacked at the idea of having $1 million to use on projects each year. That has to be worked out carefully, and you don't know what needs will arise, or how the economy turns. I would certainly make sure some surplus is put in the savings account for a rainy day, which I would think they are doing, but it is an amazing achievement so far.
• When the bridge work starts soon in downtown Birmingham, the question of the BJCC's events comes to mind. According to al.com, not all streets under the bridges will close at the same time, and contractual obligations have been made to keep at least one northbound and one southbound lane open for traffic between 13th Street and 18th Street, as well as between 19th Street and 23rd Street. Carraway Boulevard is expected to remain open with only a few short-term closures if necessary.
BJCC Executive Director and CEO Tad Snider told al.com traffic going through town will be more affected than visitors heading to the BJCC, adding that the civic center has a full slate of events scheduled this year.
“Traffic passing through Birmingham going east to west or west to east, that’s going to be impacted,” Snider said. "But if you’re coming from the south, if you’re coming up Highway 280 or Red Mountain Expressway, or up or down 65, that work is done. What we have to coordinate is when there are certain road closures because that part of the bridge span is being worked on and get people through the 9th Avenue, 8th Avenue corridor. In some ways, the more impactful work (for the BJCC) has already occurred or is about to be finished.”
• In the other direction, although it is a little further, Tupelo's BancorpSouth Arena has released a slate of events in coming months: Cirque du Soleil CRYSTAL, Jan. 10-13; Harlem Globetrotters, Jan. 21; NE Mississippi Championship Rodeo, Jan. 25-26; Monster Jam, Feb. 8-9; James Taylor, Feb. 16; Winter Jam, Feb. 21; WWE, Feb. 23; Rock of Ages, Feb. 27; Price is Right Live, March 2; Luke Combs, March 8; Casting Crowns, March 22; Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, March 31; P.J. Masks, May 14.
• I was greatly saddened to hear about the Hallmark store closing in Jasper. I want to say that may have been one of the original stores in the mall, or at least it has been there for many years. I always enjoyed seeing the Christmas ornaments each year and they have always had nice decorations and cards. (I grew up watching the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" like many of you, and the commercials were sometimes the best part of the show.) I bought some more cards the other day for good measure, but I sent out maybe 40 cards this year and maybe got back 15. On the other hand, I spent much of Christmas exchanging text greetings. (It was also sad, by the way, to hear the Robin's Nest will also close in the mall.)
By the way, I am hearing other stores in the mall are considering cutting back to an earlier closing time. Jasper Mayor David O'Mary's comments this week on the mall indicates a growing frustration in the area that vacated spaces have not been replaced. I think Belk and the Shoe Department, and maybe some restaurants, do well, but the general image of the mall around town mirrors the one placed on Sears - and as I write this, rumors are swirling of a fatal announcement for them. Frankly speaking, the mall needs to pull a rabbit or two out of the hat to be seen as a viable place to go. I really hope they do, because I can't imagine it not being there.