Jackson, Fikes win in Marion County tax suit

Ed Howell
Posted 12/28/17

Let’s clean out the notebook...

• Jasper attorneys Eddie Jackson and Richard Fikes of Jackson, Fikes, Hood and Brakefield had a big victory in Hamilton on Dec. 18. According to the Journal Record in Hamilton, Circuit Judge John Bentley ruled …

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Jackson, Fikes win in Marion County tax suit


Let’s clean out the notebook...

• Jasper attorneys Eddie Jackson and Richard Fikes of Jackson, Fikes, Hood and Brakefield had a big victory in Hamilton on Dec. 18. According to the Journal Record in Hamilton, Circuit Judge John Bentley ruled in favor of several Marion County cities the two men represented. The cities filed a lawsuit against the Marion County Commission concerning revenue from hospital tax funds, derived from a 2-cent sales tax that once went to the county hospital. A lawsuit filed by Winfield, Guin, Brilliant, Gu-Win and Twin stated that the county had ignored a legislative act since 2015, distributing only a fraction of the funds owed to the cities. The county claimed the county was only paying interest on a county bond issue instead of the principal, and the auditors told the county to change payments and make sure the principal was being paid. In the end, Bentley’s ruling means the cities will be paid $657,344. There are indications that the decision will be appealed.

• The National Weather Service in Birmingham has released a map detailing the Dec. 8 snowfall. It looks like Jasper had 2.8 inches, with the north half of the county getting less. Going just across into Fayette County about 3.5 inches was registered. Going into Jefferson County the numbers jumped to 3.5, 4 and even 6 and 6.5 inches. Going into Shelby County and somewhat to the east of there, numbers leaped to about 7.5, 8 and 10 inches. Unreal.

• The snow made for quite an event at the newspaper. For various reasons, we were shorthanded in the newsroom, meaning James Phillips, Ron Harris and I ran around that morning for as long as two hours taking photos in the Jasper snow. Moreover, so the carriers would not be trapped, we went to work on an early deadline and worked through lunch; I think I ate at 2:30 in the afternoon. Even with Jasper roads not being in bad shape that night, I was pooped, so I didn’t get to see the Jasper Men’s Chorale, and that was a shame, as I also had a Christmas parade to cover the next night. (As much as the performance, I was anxious to see the new Jasper High School Auditorium, which, I’m told, seats more than a 1,000 and has an excellent sound system.)

• I hate it that many people got sick over Christmas, as the flu and stomach bugs have been going around; some of our staff have been hit, too. I escaped, but I also got a cold at Thanksgiving and had to go that Thursday afternoon to Central Alabama Urgent Care in Dora, where Heath Hammock did a great job checking me out. Thankfully, I was off for several days, which allowed time to rest. I think rest is the biggest way to cure colds and yet we don’t take the time anymore to take that rest.

• This year’s Messiah performance in Jasper was something of an interesting challenge, as I experimented with photography under Ron Harris’ direction that involved not using any external flash. Fortunately, the new Nikon 3400 also may have helped in its settings, but it didn’t hurt that Jasper’s First Baptist Church has good lighting. I also got to shoot in that manner for the Nativity scene at Ridgeview Health Services, which turned out quite well at times. (It was frigid cold but it got a good reception. The camel they brought in behaved quite well, by the way.)

• By the way, the new camera is working out fine on sending photos by Bluetooth to my iPhone. That has made it so much easier to pick and process some photos quickly for layout, as well as to send some to Facebook. I put some Christmas parade photos from Carbon Hill and Eldridge on Facebook; moreover, I experimented with putting the parades on Facebook Live. That’s not easy doing it by yourself, with a phone in one hand and a camera in another. Sometimes I held the phone too close and you saw the phone on the edge of the camera’s photo. But I feel we will be doing more live online events in the future.

• If I were thinking of running as a Republican, I would not assume qualifying in the normal process is enough. It is not a sure thing these days, as the trend is for screening to take place. Marion County Commissioner Mike Davis, a Democrat until now, wanted to run as a Republican for probate judge and he was turned away by committee. In Walker County, I would go ahead and check in now with Walker County Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Ensor. As a reminder, qualifying starts Jan. 8 and ends Feb. 9; any events for those days are yet to be announced.

• I drove to south Alabama one recent Saturday under nice conditions, going through Oakman. It still strikes me that the city should advertise itself a hub for some scenic roads that go to Tuscaloosa, Fayette and such. I don’t know if the locals realize what a nice scenic area it is to see. It doesn’t hurt that in the city the mountains are in the background and the high school really stands out.

• Good luck to the Walker County Commission’s plan to have night meetings. Years ago the Chilton County Commission had one night meeting a month and it never got a large turnout of people who worked in the daytime. I’m sure it helped some for working folks, and that is not to be ignored. However, I would not expect many to come, as I’ve only seen people come when a situation arose. At the same time, I know they’ve had people complain, so I can’t blame commissioners for trying.

• I don’t know how much longer it will take for Sheriff Jim Underwood and the commission to resolve the jail feeding situation now that it is in court. I hear the local judges have recused themselves and we have to get another one picked. If you ask me, I think the commission will keep stretching out the current contract until a judge holds a hearing. It has certainly come at an odd time as the sheriff’s election is fast approaching.

By the way, the most noticeable Christmas parade entry of the season had to be when the sheriff’s float had an oversized elf sitting in the back of the sheriff’s float holding an oversized jar of peanut butter. Obviously, they wanted to laugh at themselves about the jail break, breaking the ice.

• As for the opioid lawsuit, I anticipate the commission will join the lawsuit, albeit with District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt abstaining or voting against. Frankly, with so many lawsuits in the nation against the drug companies, and with Walker County being an epicenter, I think it is worth the risk to see where drug manufacturers have neglected their duty to control this epidemic by marketing the opioids more casually than they should have. The number of federal fines and warnings seems to indicate something is wrong. That is not to say other segments of society have acted with no fault, but certainly enough reasonable evidence exists to follow this route to its conclusion.

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.