County satellite courthouses reopen

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Drivers lined up early Monday to be some of the first customers inside the Homewood satellite courthouse since it closed on July 31st.

"I didn't know if it would be a long line or not," said Anthony Calhoun, who waited 1 hour 20 minutes in line. "I was hoping, since they re-opened and it was a holiday and a Monday that the line wouldn't be that long."

Jefferson County satellite courthouses in Homewood and Centerpoint reopened Monday and more than 750 county employees returned to work after being put on administrative leave without pay August 1st.  The county put the employees on leave and closed the satellite courthouses after a judge declared the county's occupational tax unconstitutional.  The legislature passed a new tax which takes effect January 1st, giving county commissioners enough revenue in the 2010 fiscal budget to bring the county's employees back to work Monday on a 32-hour work week and reopen two of the four satellite courthouses.

Drivers waited an average of 90 minutes Monday to renew their tags or get new ones. Compared to the horror stories they had heard from people who waited in 6 or 8 hour lines downtown while the satellites were closed, this was a pleasant surprise.

"I was prepared to stay all day if I needed to," Calhoun said. "I'm just glad I only had to stay an hour and 20 minutes."

Most people seemed grateful to have these satellite courthouses back open.

"I'm glad," said driver David Underwood. "It would be worse downtown, 4, 5, or 6 hours. Only an hour and a half here so you can't beat it. When I left home my wife said to be good, so I was being good. I didn't say nothing in there."

In Centerpoint, one driver even gave thanks for something almost no one is willing to publicly support.

"I'm glad they got the occupational tax back," said Donald Milton. "If I had to wait 2-3 weeks I would've waited to come back before they opened back up."

When asked if the shorter line makes it easier to pay the occupational tax, Anthony Calhoun answered, "I would have to say i guess it does. When you really look at it, you just can hope that it can get even better than what it is. Because even having to wait an hour in this day and time is too long just to get a tag."

"It doesn't matter," Milton said. "I pay what I have to pay. If they say pay it, I pay it."

With most county workers on a 32-hour work week now, drivers were told a 90 minute wait may be the average for a while.