A jail for every Jefferson County politician

Vestavia Hills Fire Department Station #1
Vestavia Hills Fire Department Station #1

Our Birmingham region is the epicenter of duplication and waste.

We have dozens of government departments and agencies doing the same thing.

ComebackTown has written about this before, but missed a major duplication. 

In Jefferson County we have...

35 mayors and city councils

53 fire departments*

23 police departments**

14 emergency 911 call centers***

But there’s one more…

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway
Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway

Sheriff Pettway points out the obvious

Sometimes it takes a newly elected official with a fresh perspective to point out the obvious.

I recently heard a speech from new Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway.

Sheriff Pettway enthusiastically described efforts by his office to think regionally.

One of his early initiatives was to take responsibility for policing Fairfield—which certainly is helpful for a city that has been struggling financially.

But in his talk, he pointed out the number of jails we have in Jefferson County.

There are 17 jails in Jefferson County (15 municipal and 2 county).****

Sheriff Pettway is volunteering to facilitate a conversation on how we might consolidate some of them.

He thought this would be particularly helpful to some of the smaller municipalities—saving money and allowing them to concentrate their resources on other critical needs.

A number of years ago, an effort was made by Irondale, Mountain Brook, Vestavia, Hills and Homewood to consolidate jails. The city leaders couldn’t agree and millions of dollars have been spent on building, staffing, and maintaining separate facilities.

As a city council member of Vestavia Hills told me, we are talking about a ‘Barney Fife’ type jail.

How to become more competitive without combining municipalities

It’s not necessary to combine our municipalities—but we must find a way to consolidate some services.

That is exactly what Charlotte, North Carolina has successfully done. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County determined that it was not necessary for each to have its own fire department or police department. They divided responsibility for the major functions of government so no two entities were doing the same thing.

This year 23 Jefferson County bold and visionary mayors signed a Good Neighbor Pledge to agree not to steal businesses from one another.

This is a big deal for our region because it is our first step toward regional collaboration.

These mayors deserve our respect and applause.

But their work is just beginning.

Our elected officials need to find ways to eliminate duplication and waste.

It could be something as simple as garbage and recycling.

Or it could be major initiates like fire and police departments, 911 call centers, or jails.

I don’t know how many jails are too many, but our goal shouldn’t be  to have as many jails as politicians.

Detailed list of Jefferson County departments and agencies below…

*Fire departments (53)

  1. Adamsville Fire
  2. Adger Volunteer Fire
  3. Bagley Volunteer Fire
  4. Bessemer Fire
  5. Birmingham Fire & Rescue
  6. Birmingport Volunteer Fire
  7. Brighton Fire
  8. Brookside/Cardiff Fire
  9. Cahaba Valley Fire
  10. Cain Creek Volunteer Fire
  11. Center Point Fire
  12. Concord Fire
  13. Corner Volunteer Fire
  14. Eastern Valley Fire
  15. Fairfield Fire
  16. Forestdale Fire
  17. Fultondale Fire
  18. Gardendale Fire
  19. Glennwood Volunteer Fire
  20. Graysville Fire
  21. Homewood Fire
  22. Hoover Fire
  23. Hueytown Fire
  24. Indian Ford Volunteer Fire
  25. Irondale Fire
  26. Kimberly Fire
  27. Leeds Fire
  28. Lipscomb Fire
  29. Maytown Volunteer Fire
  30. McAdory Volunteer Fire Districts 1&2
  31. McCalla Volunteer Fire District
  32. Midfield Fire
  33. Minor Heights Fire
  34. Mount Olive Volunteer Fire
  35. Morris Volunteer Fire
  36. Mountain Brook Fire
  37. Mulga Volunteer Fire
  38. North Smithfield Manor Volunteer Fire
  39. Palmerdale Fire
  40. Pleasant Grove Fire
  41. Rexlake Fire
  42. Rocky Ridge Fire
  43. Shady Grove Fire
  44. Shannon Volunteer Fire
  45. Sylvan Springs Fire
  46. Tarrant Fire
  47. Trafford Volunteer Fire
  48. Trussville Fire
  49. US Steel
  50. Vestavia Hills Fire
  51. Warrior Fire
  52. Warrior River Fire
  53. West Jefferson Volunteer Fire

**Police departments (23 plus Sheriff’s Department)

  1. Adamsville
  2. Bessemer
  3. Birmingham
  4. Brighton
  5. Brookside
  6. Fultondale
  7. Gardendale
  8. Homewood
  9. Hoover
  10. Hueytown
  11. Irondale
  12. Kimberly
  13. Leeds
  14. Lipscomb
  15. Midfield
  16. Morris
  17. Mountain Brook
  18. Pleasant Grove
  19. Tarrant
  20. Trafford
  21. Trussville
  22. Vestavia Hills
  23. Warrior

***911 Call centers (13 municipal plus Jefferson County)

  1. Adamsville
  2. Bessemer
  3. Birmingham
  4. Fairfield
  5. Gardendale
  6. Homewood
  7. Hoover
  8. Hueytown
  9. Irondale
  10. Midfield
  11. Mountain Brook
  12. Pleasant Grove
  13. Tarrant
  14. Jefferson County

****Jails (15 municipal plus two Jefferson County)

  1. Adamsville
  2. Bessemer
  3. Birmingham
  4. Fultondale
  5. Gardendale
  6. Homewood
  7. Hoover
  8. Hueytown
  9. Irondale
  10. Midfield
  11. Mountain Brook
  12. Pleasant Grove
  13. Tarrant
  14. Trussville
  15. Vestavia Hills
  16. Jefferson County (Birmingham)
  17. Jefferson County (Bessemer)

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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 for free about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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7 thoughts on “A jail for every Jefferson County politician”

  1. Not to mention more school systems, superintendents, and boards of education than I can count without doing research!

      1. I agree with the metro plex concept, fire , police , 911 system .
        the schools Jefferson county at one time had the best school system in the state of Alabama , it also competed with any school system in the country. The poor management of the school system has left folks with out a choice cities that have their own school system are growing rapidly .

      2. I loved Jeffery’s article. The fact we have had an explosion of apartment building and a return to urban living , reminds me of the hope we had when Morris Avenue opened , we had the WFL and the group I had the privilege of doing Market Research for the Birmingham Bulls all in the 1970’s. The Jaycees were active and we had a Regional Chamber of Commerce. The reality is we are a stagnant county in population with largest employers being in government . We have few major corporations and we tax for revenue including groceries and drugs. As a state we refuse to deal with prisons, medicaid and a balanced property tax, thus allowing a few to to create massive land holdings. Yet we are resilient as a people and it starts by voting and sending people to Montgomery that serve their voters not their influencers. Michael

    1. Vouchers would improve the quality of those “educational” departments by introducing competition and innovation. Politicians are busy taking care of voters, and it’s just too bad the children can’t vote. Sorry!

  2. Prattville and Autauga County share a jail.
    Huntsville and Madison County share a jail.
    What’s our holdback?

  3. We must not be discouraged about consolidation efforts. As soon as just one “service” is consolidated and the money is returned to each city minus some contribution to the single service location, the roll back will begin. As the boom in re-sale clothing outlets across the country shows, almost all want to be in charge of their own money rather than having to fork it over to any government project that is wasteful.
    What is a more OBVIOUS place to start than a Call Center. Think telephone lines, heat, ac, salaries, rental or owned space freed up, and much, much more less tangible such as gas for employees to drive to work, lowered traffic congestion, lowered pollution. IF ANYONE READS THIS COMMENT, I CHALLENGE YOU TO THINK OF BENEFITS I HAVEN’T NAMED.

    WE CAN DO THIS! YES, we can.

    SO——do it.

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