Governor Robert Bentley says he will intervene in the controversy over downsizing Birmingham’s Cooper Green Mercy Hospital if both sides ask him to. Jefferson County plans to close down the inpatient services at the hospital and lay off up to 250 employees in an effort to cut costs and, supporters say, get the best use out of the hospital. Opponents of the plan argue that Cooper Green is critical service for many of the city’s poor and under-insured. Governor Bentley is a doctor and says he agrees that Cooper Green should keep its inpatient services open, but he says it must address the high payroll. He’s offered to intervene if asked. Hear Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald’s talk about this latest development here and here, and listen to Tanya Ott interview Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington about the decision to downsize Cooper Green and charges of racism here.
In other news:
The Alabama-Florida-Georgia tri-state water war is back in the news today. Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state’s oyster industry appears near collapse and needs help to survive. He says that includes getting more fresh water coming into Apalachicola Bay from Georgia. Scott spent yesterday afternoon meeting with Franklin County residents and local officials struggling to keep the industry afloat. Drought and a lack of enough fresh water coming down the Apalachicola River are impacting oysters in the bay. Florida has battled for years over the amount of water coming downstream from Georgia. The governor says he plans to look into possible ways to aid the oyster industry. That includes more dredging, spreading shells on the floor of the bay and even filling in a channel.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is making another push to get people who worked on the BP oil disaster cleanup to enroll in a long-term health study. The agency says more than 29,000 people have enrolled so far, but the goal is to get 35,000 to 40,000 people signed up before enrollment in the study ends Dec. 31. The study looks at how the oil leak cleanup work affects the physical and mental health of people who participated.
A small cell phone company will get more than $10 million to expand wireless service in one of Alabama’s most isolated regions. The Federal Communications Commission says Pine Belt Cellular was the only company that sought the money to build new cell phone infrastructure along almost 1,600 miles of roads in Alabama’s Black Belt. The company faces a three-year deadline to build towers and antennas and establish at least 3G service in a region where there are many areas currently without any cell phone service.
A Birmingham police officer could face up to 10 years in prison after being convicted yesterday of beating a handcuffed prisoner. A jury convicted 34-year-old Corey Hooper of depriving the civil rights of Martez Gulley during the beating five years ago. Hooper is an 11 year police department veteran. He’s been on unpaid leave since his indictment earlier this year. He’s scheduled for sentencing in February.