Author: Dale Liesch

City begins next phase of signal upgrades on Water Street

The City of Mobile is beginning the next step towards transforming Water Street from the backyard of downtown into the gateway of Mobile. Pending Council approval, the city will begin installation of new traffic signal controllers, a detection system, and pedestrian signal poles and signals. These traffic upgrades will create a more walkable corridor, as well as a more efficient traffic flow. Last month, the city began fiber optic work for the traffic signals in preparation for Water Street’s vehicular lane reduction. In August, the first phase of construction began including new sidewalks and new ADA curb ramps at...

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Officials mum on BayBears sale, move

Despite media reports of the Southern League’s approval of the sale of Mobile’s minor league baseball team, officials are remaining tight-lipped about the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. According to media reports out of the Huntsville area, the SL approved the sale of the BayBears to an investment company out of Phoenix called BallCorps, but league President Lori Webb could not confirm it. “The sale of the Mobile franchise is incomplete,” she said. “Until the sale process is complete, we will have no further comment.” She added that there was no timetable for the sale to be...

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Drummond elected MAWSS board chairwoman

Barbara Drummond was elected Chairwoman of the Mobile Area Water & Sewer System (MAWSS) Board of Commissioners, replacing Dr. James Laier who returns to the role of commissioner. Sam Jones will serve as Vice Chairman and Kenneth W. Nichols will be Secretary-Treasurer. The election took place at the Oct. 11 meeting. Drummond, a representative for House District 103, is the owner of B-Inspired Marketing and Consulting, Inc. She is the former Executive Director of Administrative Services and Community Affairs for the City of Mobile, as well as former Public Affairs and Community Services Director for the Mobile County Commission. Prior to government service, she was a reporter and columnist for the Mobile Press Register. A graduate of Leadership Mobile and Leadership Alabama, she has served on numerous civic boards, receiving several national awards for her leadership. She served as MAWSS’ Vice Chair in...

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MAWSS postpones Spanish Fort rate increase

Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) has agreed to postpone a rate increase for Spanish Fort Water until Friday, Dec. 1, to allow further discussion with the Baldwin utility. The decision was made at the Board’s Oct. 11 meeting. MAWSS notified Spanish Fort in April that the wholesale water rate to the Baldwin County utility would increase by $2.19 per thousand gallons effective Oct. 1. MAWSS based the increase on an outside cost of service study that indicated the rate it was charging Spanish Fort — $1.56 per thousand gallons — was not covering the utility’s cost of...

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MAWSS building sewer overflow basins near Riviere Du Chien

The Mobile Area Water and Sewer System is in the process of building three large basins that are designed to help prevent sanitary sewer overflows in the future. While the utility continues to work on aging infrastructure — which is the root cause of many of the area’s overflows and is estimated to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars to completely fix — they are hopeful that large stormwater attenuation basins, like those under construction at 4200 Riviere Du Chien Road, can help mitigate future issues. Once completed, the three basins will be able to hold a...

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Developers reaping millions in retail tax incentives

Through an agreement with developers of the McGowin Park shopping center, the city has refunded more than $3.9 million in sales tax revenue since 2015. The agreement, which created an improvement district, guaranteed that a percentage of the sales tax paid by retailers to the city would come back to the developers over a 20-year period. An example in the agreement says that if a customer at a sporting goods store bought a football for $100, the city would receive $3.60 from the city’s 5 percent sales tax and the developer would receive $1.40. During the same period, from 2015 to 2017, the city took in more than $13.7 million in tax revenue in an area that produced more than $358 million in sales because of the shopping center. “I think people like it,” Councilman John Williams said of the development. “It offers a different venue with stores that have never been in Mobile before. Those are easily a step up in our retail community.” Part of the McGowin Park development is in the district Williams represents. He said the McGowin developers paid upfront costs for the infrastructure, which he appreciated. “That’s something we need to do more of,” WIlliams said. “We took the less risky route.” The center has introduced retailers like Costco, Field & Stream and Dick’s Sporting Goods to Mobile. However, it has also poached stores...

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Tourism incentive district closer to becoming reality

Local hotel owners are moving closer to approving an initiative that would provide millions more in funding to Visit Mobile. The Mobile Area Lodging Association has already voted to approve a tourism incentive district, or TID, which would add more than $1 million to tourism marketing coffers by adding a $1 charge to area hotel rooms, Visit Mobile President and CEO David Clark said at the organization’s annual meeting last week. “It could mean $1.4 million more in marketing reach if it comes to fruition,” he said. “There are 165 [TIDs] in North America and they change the landscape of communities.” The Mobile Area Lodging Association has voted to allow for the creation of the TID, but now must go before the Mobile City Council with legal petitions of establishment, said association President Kent Blackinton. Before the council can vote on the measure, the lodging association must turn in a series of petitions showing support from a majority of hotel owners. “It’s not an easy process,” Blackinton said. “We have to get a certain number of signatures to put it in front of the City Council.” The signatures on the petitions must meet two different thresholds before the council can act, Blackinton said. First, the association must receive consent from hotel owners representing 60 percent of the parcel value of area hotels. The group must also receive 50 percent...

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Proposals look to use USA Foundation land as park, Brookley expansion

The old University of South Alabama golf course could become Mobile’s newest bayside attraction, if plans submitted to the Gulf Coast Recovery portal come to fruition. One such plan submitted by Pelican Coast Conservancy Director of Operations Walter C. Ernest IV would set aside the land and preserve it. Ernest said his plan, which the city would have to support, would preserve the 150 acres but could allow some public access. He said he envisions a greenway similar to what is being built at Three Mile Creek. The project goes hand in hand with others the city is currently...

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