George Bowman returns to county commission

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Tuesday was the first full day on the job for newly-elected Jefferson County Commissioner George Bowman.

Bowman won the district one special election two weeks ago over Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin, filling the seat vacated by Birmingham Mayor William Bell in January until the term expires in November.

Bowman and Austin will square off again on Tuesday in the Democratic primary runoff election. The winner of that runoff will serve a full four years starting in November.

Bowman was appointed to serve on the county commission in November 2007 to fill the seat vacated by Larry Langford who had then been elected as mayor of Birmingham. Bowman stayed on the commission until 2008, when William Bell defeated him and other challengers for the seat.

Bowman said Tuesday he enjoyed returning to his old office.

"I feel good," Bowman said. "It's good to be back. It feels like old home week."

The good feeling may not last long. Bowman is vowing to keep the county owned nursing home open.

"We need a place for people to go who have no where else to go," Bowman said. "There are some people there who go anywhere else."

Tuesday, Bowman and other county commissioners voted to settle a lawsuit filed over the death of a resident at the Jefferson County Rehabilitation and Health Center. Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says the threat of lawsuit is one reason she supports selling the operation.

"There is a great deal of liability," Collins said. "That is a very astute observation. There is a great deal of liability on many fronts."

Bowman said the lawsuit does not deter his desire to keep the facility.

"That doesn't throw a monkey wrench into what happens," Bowman said. "That was an unfortunate incident that happened. That is a settlement the county has made to the estate of the family."

Bowman believes he can find a cost savings and a ways to insure the safety of the residents of the center. Other commissioners are skeptical.

"He is going to show us how to save three to four million a year?" Jim Carns, Jefferson County Commissioner said. "If he can do that we will let him look environmental services, too."

Meanwhile, the commission will debate hiring a company for appraising the property for a possible sale.     

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