Could we be the next Jefferson County?

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The news for the last several weeks has been filled with nothing but budget crises.

Here and there, everyone from the banking and automotive industries to county governments are talking of how they plan to meet payroll and keep up services.

Rumors of layoffs, shutdowns and furloughs have dominated the news, and with each news brief, one thought crosses my mind — how close is Covington County to making those same news wires, especially when taking into consideration the situation in Jefferson County?

Jefferson County has been described as “cash strapped” and facing an “economic crisis” – two very similar words to those used repeatedly in headlines and in news stories describing Covington County’s current economic situation.

How each of the counties arrived at its present situation is a complete opposite of one another. Jefferson’s came through a loss of revenue due to the repealing of an occupational tax and Covington’s came through an apparently decade-long trend of mismanagement and overspending of county funds.

However, the end result was still the same. Each was left scrambling for ways to generate revenue.

Jefferson County turned to the legislature.

Covington County turned to FEMA, so I guess FEMA could be described as Covington’s own special legislative session.

Last I heard, those FEMA checks were trickling in too slow to make much of an impact on the county’s bottom line.

And let’s not forget … you got it — BINGO!

While our own county commissioners proclaim the issue dead and buried, the bingo issues in Jefferson County should stand as a glaring example of what could happen here — especially if the commission doesn’t follow through with establishing rules and regulations governing bingo.

Let me simplify it — and this is in really simple and hypothetical terms: My daughter wants to wear shorts to school. Let’s say there’s no policy in place stating how short those shorts can be, and she shows up with some really short shorts on. School officials say, “Hey. You can’t wear those. They’re too short,” but there’s nothing in the handbook that defines how long shorts must be worn while at school.

She’s already worn the shorts. The damage is done, and school officials are now scrambling to put something in place to prevent all the other little girls from showing up in the shorty shorts.

Get my point? What if — and I mean what if — the Andalusia VFW folks woke up one morning and said, “Hey, let’s install 500 bingo machines down at the lodge.”

The county commission has nothing — and I mean nothing — on the books to regulate electronic bingo.

And those are just the two issues I can think of off the top of my head.

I’m afraid before too much longer the county is going to be in over its head, and there’s not going to be anyone there to bail us out.