Alabaster could hire school attorney Nov. 7

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster City Council likely will decide during its Nov. 7 meeting if it will contract with the attorneys used by the Jefferson County School Board to help the city negotiate its split with the Shelby County School System.

The announcement came during a Nov. 1 council work session, during which council members heard from two attorneys looking to contract with the city.

Carl Johnson Jr. and Whit Colvin, both attorneys with the Birmingham-based Bishop, Colvin, Johnson and Kent law firm, told council members the city’s first step is to appoint members to an Alabaster school board.

After the council appoints the school board, the attorneys said the school board should then turn its focus to hiring a city schools superintendent, a “limited staff” to support the superintendent through the preliminary stages of separation and a “competent financial officer” to help plan the district’s finances.

“After you select the school board, it will be their choice who they hire as superintendent. But you likely will have to back that decision with a financial commitment,” Johnson told the council.

Alabaster City Attorney Jeff Brumlow, who recommended Johnson and Colvin to the city, said the two attorneys have represented Jefferson County several times in the past when cities broke from the Jefferson County School District.

Brumlow said he would not be comfortable representing the city in the school separation negotiations because of his lack of experience with school board-related legal issues.

“School board work is an animal of a different character. That is not something I feel comfortable doing,” Brumlow said.

Colvin said the separation process between Alabaster and Shelby County will “take some time,” and urged the council to appoint a school board as early as possible.

“The earlier you get started, the better,” Colvin said.

Johnson said nearly everything related to the separation between the Alabaster schools and the county school district will hinge on negotiations between the two entities.

“There are relatively few absolute rules in this process,” Johnson said. “But there is ample precedent in place.”

In other business, the council also likely will decide during its Nov. 5 meeting if it will fund a 10,500-square-foot new courtroom and city administration building near the Alabaster Senior Center and a 30-by-40-foot expansion at the Albert L. Scott Public Library.

The two projects likely would total about $2.1 million, said Alabaster City Administrator George Henry. Henry said the city could fund payments on the new courthouse and city administration building with money the city receives from the state’s County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

If constructed, the new courthouse and administration building would bring several city departments, such as inspections, building services and revenue under one roof. Henry said the addition to the library would replace a trailer on the property, and would allow the library to expand its offerings.