Fairfield Mayor talks next steps for financially strapped city

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The options for the financially strapped city of Fairfield are becoming more and more slim.

“Things are extremely bad,” Fairfield Mayor Kenneth Coachman said.

It is a city losing residents, from 12,000 10 years ago to a little more than 11,000 today.

The city lost its largest employer, U.S. Steel, and more recently Walmart, and with them went jobs and taxes for city.

So where does Fairfield go from here?

Coachman joined the CBS42 Morning News Thursday to discuss the next steps for the city with Art Franklin.

Coachman said Birmingham annexing Fairfield is a last alternative, and that they are now looking at filing Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

“We are looking forward now into possibly going into Chapter 9, but with Chapter 9 that would be an extended period of time and I am short on personnel to assist with that plus we do not have the finances to pay for it. So it’s difficult,” Coachman explained.

Chapter 9 is “available exclusively to municipalities,” and “assists them in the restructuring of debts.”

“We are looking for a financial miracle,” the mayor said. “I am praying for the city.”

Later on Thursday, the Fairfield City Council scheduled a special called meeting to discuss the problem.

Only two councilors, Gloria Matthews and James Reasor, showed up.

Matthews, the council’s finance committee chair, read from her list of money saving suggestions, which included closing the Fairfield library and community center, no longer housing inmates in the city jail and freezing overtime for police and firefighters.

Fire Chief Kevin Sutton and Police Chief Leon Davis both attended, and addressed the two councilors.

Both Chiefs were concerned about their jobs, following calls at a town hall Tuesday to dissolve the departments and contract with the county.

Matthews said it would be hard to justify freezing overtime payments to first responders.

“Police and fire are working 24/7,” she said. “Some of them don’t even go home for days.”

Matthews added that the city was looking to hire 10 new police officers and 10 new firefighters, to cut down on overtime for existing employees.

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