The Jackson County Commission voted on several items on their agenda and discussed others at the last regular meeting and work session held on Monday, March 28, 2022. There were also citizens present to discuss the childcare crisis in Scottsboro and Jackson County. By the end of May, the Broad Street Church of Christ center will be closing its doors, sending the parents of 70 children into a tailspin to find proper care for their children while they are at work.
According to Yvonne Marchik of The Children’s Place, daycares are closing due to several factors.
“The pay scale is low, the work is hard, the hours are long. It is challenging to work with lots of little people and with adequate staffing. My ladies have worked overtime since December; I’ve got some that have work 88 hours for two weeks since December,” stated Marchik.
Marchik also stated that while the government regulations and requirements for opening and running a childcare facility are a good thing and instated for the protection of the children and staff present, they do present multiple hang-ups.
“Our building is so old, and because of regulations that are there, you’re required to have a certain amount of space for your children. I’ve got a whole upstairs right now that I was looking at moving my four-year olds and after-school kids into. Can I open some more rooms and help people out? I’m looking at having an architect, an attorney to argue the ground floor rule, installing a sprinkler system, a security system, which will be $4,000.”
She was followed by Cindy Wood, Chairperson for the Board of the Children’s Place for over three years.
“It started before COVID,” Wood stated. “It’s nothing new. COVID just made it worse. I’m a retired school teacher. If you want good quality care for your children, these teachers have to be trained, and they have to be paid well because it is a ten and a half hour job a day. In order to find this, we can’t charge a lot. It’s a razor edge budget that we are working with. We’ve had to increase our fees just like everyone else is increasing. I have watched all these teachers, and they just work so hard.”
Wood also stated she attended a discussion in Huntsville about the childcare workforce. The gist of the meeting entailed the corporations and employers of the area should step up and help provide a place for childcare for their employees. Otherwise, there will be no workforce if parents have nowhere to bring their children.
Commission Chairman Bill Nance stated, “One of the things the Chamber is working on is workforce development. It’s going to be greatly impacted if we do not have a facility for childcare workers to have a place to put their children. As a father of four and a grandfather of 11, I understand the issue that you’re dealing with; we all do.”
“As we see more businesses move into the area,” Nance continued, “they’re going to need employees, and if the employees can’t find childcare, they’re not going to be able to work in these facilities that we have. I think we’re seeing that already. We need to make this a part of workforce development. Not just the training of future employees but how we take care of ensuring that we can sustain those employees.”
A portion of Commissioner Kevin McBride’s salary was forfeited. According to McBride, there is a salary cap if you retire from a job such as a school system. The money will be set aside and put into an account to be used at the discretion of the commission for a community fund.
Via Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG), an additional $144,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be awarded to the Jackson County Council on Aging. These funds will be used for revitalization in such ways as any needed equipment, freezers, stoves, refrigerators, exercise equipment, painting, flowers outside, signage for buildings, etc.
The motion to approve the collection plan for non-paying Solid Waste customers was tabled until further deliberation.
Nance stated, “Across the county, we have a 12,991 customers, but we have 350 that are non-payers, with a total debt owed to the county of $200,000. In yearly lost income of that, we see about $62,000.”
If approved, this item will have legal/court ramifications if these customers still do not pay what they owe or if they fail to appear to a court summons.
Commissioner Jason Venable stated, “In September, I think, our debt was close to $300,000, and I think $287,000 is what I remember. There are 350 non-payers now. Do you recall how many non-payers there were in September of 2021?”
Venable continued, “I went by the police department for the third time to try to gain that information. I’d really like to know how many people and what the dollar amount was that we collected. That’s $100,000 difference from September to now – five months. I’d just like to know how we got to that point. I don’t understand how five people came in, and we saved $100,000. That’s pretty concerning to me.”
Venable stated he would abstain from voting on this issue until he has seen a complete list.
The commissioners also discussed the grant process for the IDB funds. In previous discussions, the commissioners discussed various ways they could award the funds in the fairest way possible.
Nance stated, “The idea of this is we would have established criteria and the, periods during the year, we would make acknowledgement to the community that they could request bids or request grants through the IDB fund, and we would use those criteria in our selection process.”
The commissioners agreed they would prefer to see projects that would offer a sense of permanency to the public for many years to come.
The application process would be advertised to the public during an off-election year, and after the established deadline, the commissioners would meet to discuss which projects and/or applications they would prefer to fund.
As for the allotments, they have discussed breaking the $50,000 up into one lump sum, two $25,000 grants, five $10,000 grants or 10 $5,000 grants.
The Rescue Squad’s need for $30,000 from ARPA was also discussed.
by Martha Smith