The Jefferson County Commission Tuesday delayed discussion and possible action regarding a reported $14 million shortfall in World Games 2022 operations.
Commissioner Joe Knight, chairman of the commission’s finance committee and liaison to The World Games, said the commission had been asked for an additional $4 million to fix the shortage.
While putting the matter on the committee’s Sept. 6 agenda, Knight said he still views the 11-day sporting event as a triumph for the metro area.
“The Jefferson County Commission continues our efforts in support of World Games 2022,” Knight said, reading from a prepared statement. “While not contractually obligated, the commission has partnered with Birmingham, the state of Alabama, the convention bureau and the corporate community to bring these games to our community. The Games were a success in the eyes of the athletes, the fans and the 3,400 volunteers who made it possible.
“On the other hand, there are outstanding balances, as is often the case with events of this magnitude,” the commissioner continued. “We will continue to work with all partners to bring this to an amicable conclusion.”
Knight acknowledged that there might be disagreements among commissioners about spending more money on the games.
“Some of the commissioners may vote in favour, some will not,” he said. “But I will work with the other partners to resolve this and get this over with so we don’t make a bad impression at the event,” he told media between the committee meeting and the regular session, both of which were held Tuesday .
Ron Jackson, a longtime citizen activist, said Jefferson County should stop giving taxpayer money to the World Games.
“This was a business proposition that was miscalculated and speculated, and our taxpayers will not pay for it,” said Jackson, executive director of Citizens for Better Schools and Sustainable Communities. “We are letting the Commission and everyone else know that we want the World Games Organizing Committee to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy now so that the unsecured creditors … we want them paid.”
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said it was premature to do anything about the World Games debt immediately. He said there had to be a reckoning to determine what the “contractors” had done to reduce the deficit.
“There’s one thing we won’t do,” Stephens said. “We will not take taxpayers’ money that is earmarked for improving our roads and transportation and will allocate those from the citizens who have elected us for the World Games that have come and gone.”