Concerned attorneys, elected officials, candidates, business owners, residents and others gathered at 11:00 on the steps of the Justice Center in Bessemer to show their opposition to the proposed closing of the courthouse.
Approximately 60 people heard Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley, "I don't think the Constitution of the State of Alabama allows the commission to close this courthouse."
Mayor Gulley said he was ready to take the issue all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court if necessary in order to keep the courthouse open.
He said he was tired of our courthouse being treated like stepchildren.
(I'm sure he meant no harm to the multitudes of quality step-parents out there.)
But he's right. Remember when Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins questioned whether or not the court house should be built?
''Is Bessemer growing residentially that it needs to serve more people? No,'' Collins said. ''We've
got a courthouse satellite in Forestdale, we've got one in Center
Point, we've got one in Homewood and now one in Gardendale. Why in the
world are we building a $100 million deal in Bessemer?''
Of course, as was brought up at today's protest by Sylvia Blackerby (the organizer of the event) the Bessemer Justice Center serves more than just the residents of Bessemer. The fastest growing area of the county, McCalla, along with Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, areas of the county, parts of Hoover, are all served here.
Ms. Blackerby also noted that among those affected by the closing would be the victims of crimes who would then have to travel to downtown Birmingham for legal proceedings.
And she reminded the crowd that there are 5 elected officials that were voted for in that building, and that by closing the facility, they are taking away our voting privileges.
Attorney Aaron Killings also spoke, sending a message to our commissioners that people are very disappointed that they want to disregard Bessemer.
Commissioner Jimmie Stephens spoke up and wanted clarification that not all the commissioners were in on that, and that he was in favor of keeping the courthouse open.
After Mr. Stephens spoke a retired Jeffco worker got in his face with her concerns about the commission firing or forcing retirement on so many people.
If this courthouse closes, more people will lose their jobs. Some inside the courthouse but many outside the courthouse as well. Attorney's offices might cut back, restaurants (including the Bright Star) will see their clientele diminish in number.
People were watching from across the street (no, those bars aren't part of the jail).
And what about these people. This is part of the line of people waiting to get tags today. These are not all Bessemer residents. But what if they were? So what? This courthouse is here because...
The Bessemer Division of the Jefferson County Circuit Court was established in 1915 and the old courthouse finished in 1920. So for almost 100 years the people in the Western part of Jefferson County have traveled to Bessemer to conduct business. If this courthouse were to close, or to move out of the downtown area, the city center of Bessemer would become a ghost town.
Let the commissioners know what you think.
David Carrington: Phone (205) 325-5503
George Bowman: Phone: (205) 325-5504
Sandra Little Brown: Phone: (205) 325-5074
Jimmie Stephens: Phone: (205) 325-5555
Joe Knight: Phone: (205) 325-5070