Officials say they’re finding tar balls on Alabama’s beaches in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. Representatives from the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach says workers are seeing significantly more tar deposits on the sand than before Isaac struck. The tar is weathered and old, and it’s not considered dangerous. It could be breaking off from large, submerged mats that were left from the BP oil spill in 2010, though tests have yet to confirm that. A BP spokesman says they have response teams in the area.
The Justice Department is urging a federal judge to ignore BP’s assertion that the Gulf Coast’s natural resources are making a “robust recovery” from its massive 2010 oil spill. In a strongly worded court filing Friday, government lawyers also renewed their vow to prove BP engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct leading up to the deadly rig explosion that killed 11 workers and spawned the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. BP could be liable for billions of dollars in fines if U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier sides with the government. The memo’s harsh language is a sign that BP and the Justice Department aren’t close to a settlement that would resolve the federal government’s claims against the oil giant before a trial scheduled for next year.
Jefferson County has just over three weeks to draft a much leaner budget for the new fiscal year. And with no occupational tax or replacement revenue from the state that’s not an easy task. The county has nearly $203 million in budgeted expenses, but only $183 million in projected revenues for next fiscal year. Commission President David Carrington tells the Birmingham News that he doubts the county can balance the budget.
Meanwhile, one budget cut that’s getting a lot of attention is the proposed closure of the Bessemer Cutoff courthouse. The Commission wants to break its lease on the property. It says it could save 8 million dollars a year by closing the facility. But late yesterday the cities of Hueytown and Bessemer, along with six elected officials and one Bessemer resident, filed an objection to the plan. The one resident who filed that objection, Matthew Howard, has retained a pretty high profile attorney to represent him: Former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon. According to Clemon, moving the courthouse out of Bessemer would infringe of Mr. Howard’s voting rights. Howard is elderly, he’s blind and Clemon argues that moving the courthouse would also move Howard’s polling place which, Clemon says requires permission from the U.S. Department of Justice.
WBHM’s Tanya Ott and Birmingham News columnist John Archibald discuss Jefferson County’s financial crisis at length in an interview that aired today. Listen to that here.
A lawsuit challenging Alabama’s policy of segregating HIV positive prison inmates is going to trial. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an order yesterday rejecting the state prison system’s request to dismiss the suit. That means the trial will begin Sept. 17 in Montgomery. Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas says the state won a similar case in 1999 and is prepared for trial on this one. Margaret Winter of the ACLU’s National Prison Project says the organization looks forward to bringing an end to Alabama’s distinction of being one of just two states that segregates the housing for prisoners with HIV. The other is South Carolina.
Leaders in Tuscaloosa are trying to promote new businesses in west Alabama. The city, the University of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama are joining forces to open a new business incubator called “The Edge – Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” They’ll unveil the 9,000-square-foot office during an event this afternoon. The partnership aims to link small businesses with critical assets to help them grow. It also will try to improve the environment for starting up minority businesses.
Gov. Robert Bentley is headed to his hometown of Tuscaloosa today to announce a new auto supplier that will create 100 jobs. The governor’s office says the company will invest $34 million and will supply products to the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Vance.
Officials say an apparel plant in Fayette that makes clothing for the U.S. military will close Oct. 31, putting 119 people out of work. The Tuscaloosa News reports the plant closing comes as the federal government transfers the sewing work which had been done there to inmates in federal prisons. A sister plant in Columbus, Miss., will also close.
One of the three finalists to be Alabama’s two-year college chancellor is withdrawing his name. Gregory Gray says he’s decided to stay in California as chancellor of the Riverside Community College District. His decision came after district board members and others asked him to stay. A spokeswoman for Alabama’s two-year college system says the State Board of Education will go ahead with plans to interview the other two finalists later this month. They are Mark Heinrich, president of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, and Blake Flanders, vice president of workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents. The school board is looking for a replacement for Freida Hill, who stepped down in March under pressure from some board members.
They’re calling it the Spawn of Isaac. A remnant of the hurricane that was drawn back into the Gulf of Mexico after Isaac made its way through the Midwest. National Weather Service Meteorologists say the recycled disturbance is hovering off the Gulf Coast. It has about a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression over the next two days. If it does form, it’s likely to move generally south and hang around in the Gulf until Friday or Saturday, when a cold front should shunt it east or northeast.