My Mountain Brook friend slipped down the stairs to his basement, opened his garage door, and quietly pushed his trash container to the street.
He cautiously looked both ways and then, as quietly as possible, rolled it past three of his neighbors’ homes. He glanced to see if anyone was looking and then grabbed two garbage bags from his container and delicately threw them into a neighbor’s trash can.
Why would a Mountain Brook man do such a dastardly deed?
As my friend explained, Vestavia Hills picks up trash twice a week—Mountain Brook only once. Since he lives four houses away from Vestavia—this is a simple way for him to dispose of his smelly trash on a more-timely basis.
When I questioned his ethics…
He said I had no right to be judgmental. He pointed out that I live in Vestavia Hills, but that I often walk the Jemison Trail in Mountain Brook.
Our region is certifiably nuts
We pay for things ten times when we could pay for them once.
People tell me they are amazed to see garbage trucks from two or three different municipalities pick up trash in their neighborhood because a single neighborhood is often located in more than one city.
Garbage pick-up is not the only duplication.
I recently received this note from an angry citizen…
“I once had a wreck on 280, at the light between the Summit and Whole Foods. Thank god it was only a glorified fender bender and nobody was hurt or needed an ambulance because when we called 911 we got the Cahaba Heights call center, but we were in Mountain Brook jurisdiction.”
“So they couldn’t send anybody to us for some reason. 3 times we called, and the police officer that finally showed up just happened to be driving down the road, he wasn’t sent there by a dispatcher.”
Duplication costs money
Jefferson County has sixteen emergency call centers each staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—Tuscaloosa and Mobile County, for instance, have one each.
Steve Ammons, our soon to be seated Jefferson County Commissioner, told me that the Vestavia Hills City Council made the decision five years ago to outsource its call center.
Vestavia immediately saved $1.2 million by not having to make capital purchases for new equipment and another $500,000 per year on salaries and retirement costs–another $2.5 million. ($3.7 million dollars saved to date)
And remember, there are 16 other call centers in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County has 54 fire departments and 33 police departments—plus the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
We increase taxes to pay for duplication
Irondale just implemented an occupational tax.
Last year Homewood raised its sales tax. Then Vestavia Hills followed by increasing its sales tax also.
Hoover’s expecting a large deficit and Mayor Brocato has recommended a tax increase for Hoover.
We can’t find a way to work together
A few years ago, the cities of Irondale, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Homewood attempted to build a common jail and failed. A city councilperson from one of those suburbs told me–we’re talking about a Barney Fife/Andy Griffith type jail.
And now Homewood has announced it is going to build a new public safety headquarters in West Homewood—which will include a jail, courtroom, training and patrol rooms, and 911 dispatch—at a cost of over $21 million dollars.
As the old saying goes—you spend $20 million here and $20 million there—and soon it adds up to real money.
Unfortunately, this real money is funded by us tax payers.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org