Master plan unveiled for Gulf State Park enhancements

(Courtesy of Sasaki Associates) state officials last week detailed the $85.5 million enhancement proposal at Gulf State Park.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft hopes a revitalized Gulf State Park and rebuilt lodge will not only rehabilitate the coastal environment, but also show visitors a side of the state he says many outsiders don’t know exists. “Some people don’t even know Alabama has a beach,” Craft said. “I think there’s kind of a negative perception of Alabama out there in some circles. This project will attract people to our coastal cities and we will get to show them the Alabama we all know and love. I think the biggest benefit of the project is that it will improve the state’s image, person by person.”

Despite a federal lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the use of BP restoration funds for the lodge and conference center, state park officials and designers from Boston-based Sasaki Associates unveiled a master plan for the park’s multi-year renovation last week in Orange Beach. Continue Reading →

Lottery, gas tax mark 2016 regular session

Sen. Jim McClendon (Facebook)

As lawmakers return to Montgomery this week, they’ll have a host of issues to tackle — some new and others that have been debated for years. The legislative session officially started Feb. 2, but prefiled bills have been proposed for the past few months. One that has created a lot of buzz is a referendum to gauge Alabama residents’ support of a constitutional amendment establishing a state lottery, which if approved, would be the first referendum on the issue in 17 years. (more…) Continue Reading →

Orange Beach PAC searching for political candidates

In response to what it says are misguided priorities from some of the city’s current elected officials, the Orange Beach 2016 Political Action Committee is looking for a few good candidates to even the playing field in the upcoming municipal elections. The PAC, chaired by W. Douglas Broadhead, reported a total of just $645 in contributions from six Orange Beach residents in its January Fair Campaign Practices Act report, but it immediately spent $300 on a website, www.ob2016.com, where Treasurer Jim Caldwell listed desirable principles for potential candidates. “We have not been very active yet but are in the process of finding suitable candidates for the mayor’s office and the City Council,” Caldwell said. “We do have a few good candidates but right now they have not officially decided to run … It is too early to announce any candidates.”

Online, the PAC cites the city of Orange Beach Horizons 2020 plan from 2006, which listed infrastructure and traffic-control priorities for city officials to tackle over the next 10 years. Among those were the construction of the “Cross Island Connector,” the widening of Canal Road from the Foley Beach Express to State Highway 161, improvements at the intersection of State Highways 161 and 180, roadway drainage improvements, a sidewalk and bicycle master plan, construction of additional boat launches and public parking facilities on Perdido Beach Boulevard. Continue Reading →

Council uses ‘broad interpretation’ of law to hold unadvertised interviews

The Mobile City Council held unadvertised interviews last week, where all seven members were present to interview candidates for a new public relations position.  

The new position was described in an email by council President Gina Gregory as a contractor who would handle all of the council’s “media and community relations, including social media.”

The Alabama Open Meetings Act gives few exceptions to what it defines as a meeting and, thus, what must be advertised by a governing body and open to the public. One exception includes a gathering where the governing body “does not deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the governmental body at a later date.”

With guidance from Attorney Jim Rossler, it appears councilors are defending the move using the exception. “We have done a preliminary review of applications and interviews,” Gregory wrote. “There was no deliberation and no decisions have been made.”

Alabama Press Association Executive Director Felicia Mason said the council could argue what occurred during the interview process wasn’t deliberation, given a “very broad interpretation” of the law. Continue Reading →

Two pilots killed in plane crash near Mobile Airport

Major David R. Mauritson, of Fairhope, was one of the victims in Monday's plane crash in Mobile.

Hundreds of first responders and law enforcement officials spent hours searching for a plane that put out a distress beacon near Mobile Regional Airport on the evening of Feb. 1. However, their only discovery was the wreckage of a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 a mile west of the facility after a crash killed both occupants. On Tuesday morning, officials with the Civil Air Patrol’s Alabama Wing released the names of the deceased — identifying Major David R. Mauritson of Fairhope and 2nd Lt. Phil J. Dryden of Gulf Shores as the victims.

Officials said the plane lost contact with Mobile Regional Airport around 8 p.m., and emergency crews located the crash site just before 2 a.m. the following morning. Though the details of what caused the crash have not been determined, officials have said the two pilots were returning to Mobile from a “medical mercy” trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when the crash occurred. Continue Reading →