Jefferson County employees react to unpaid leave

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Mary Sexton works in Environmental services for Jefferson County. Sexton says even though no county worker is being fired, being sent home without a pay check will hurt.

"We got to get another job," Sexton says. "Most people live pay check to pay check. We don't have the big pay checks to keep holding on and on."

Tuesday the Jefferson County Commission rejected a plan to lay off 200 laborers. Instead the commissioners supported putting them on immediately on administrative leave without pay for up to six weeks starting August 1.

"It's horrible situation," said Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins. "I think the real story here it could have been avoided. It should have never happened."

The commissioner is blaming Jefferson County lawmakers for killing the occupational tax in 1999 and for failing to legally replace it. Still Collins hopes the lawmakers will finally approve a new job tax in a special session in about two weeks.

"We are going to take care business," Collins said. "If we are going to have a county run by a skeletal crew, it's going to happen."

Commissioner Shelia Smoot agrees Jefferson County will be more of a skeleton operation.

"Things are going to be scaled back on things to do business," Smoot said. "Basically what it means is a smaller, minute government maybe the size of Gardendale."

Meanwhile how are county employees feeling about the changes?  "Sad. Angry. Lost faith in the county," says Sexton.