Next week, the Mobile City Council will consider a performance contract with the History Museum of Mobile to cover its payroll through the end of the fiscal year.

Although the contract was on the July 21 agenda for a first read, council rules mandated that a vote be automatically held over for a week.

The $210,000 contract, which will fund the museum’s board through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, includes money for employees, who were told last month they would be laid off by the city effective Aug. 1, Assistant City Attorney Florence Kessler said. The amount of the contract is simply two-months’ worth of museum operating expenses intended to cover the remaining 60 days.

Meanwhile, it will be up to the museum board to present the city with a budget for a separate contract covering expenses through fiscal year 2016. Although the board will manage the History Museum of Mobile, Fort Conde and Phoenix Fire Museum, the city will “pay the bills,” Kessler said.

Ronald Hunt, a resident and self-described “friend of museum employees,” urged councilors to suspend the rules and vote in favor of the contract during Tuesday’s meeting. He told them a delay until July 28 would mean employees would only be notified of their job status three days prior to possibly being laid off.

However, museum board member Pat Edington said after the meeting that the board would begin conducting interviews with employees this week, forcing them to reapply for their positions.

Edington said the museum board approved the contract unanimously at its meeting Monday, July 20.

“We’re so excited about the challenge,” she said about the agreement. “The board has hung in there because we are all — to a person — committed to the museum.”

Edington also thanked the administration and, preemptively, the council for helping to get the deal done.

“We’ve got a big job … ” she said. “Most of us on the board have been involved with the museum for years. We’re not Johnny-come-latelys.”

Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he doesn’t believe the average Mobile citizen will see a difference when the board takes over the museum in August. He added that the future looks bright for the museum, especially with new attractions opening soon at GulfQuest National Maritime Museum across Water Street.

“If there’s any time for the museum to flourish it’s now,” Stimpson said.
Stimpson made admission to the museum free last year, but with changes on the board and in management, he told reporters admission fees in the future would be out of his hands.

Edington said the board has not made a final decision on whether to again charge admission to visitors. She said board members favor free admission, but have been concerned about the resulting loss of funding.

As a result of the deal, the Fort Conde Visitors Center will be operated through the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In other business, the council approved, by a 5-0 vote, a $32,805 contract with HEPACO LLC to remove floating litter from One Mile Creek, Three Mile Creek and Dog River. Council President Gina Gregory and councilman John Williams were absent.

The contract includes litter removal on areas adjacent to the watershed, as well as a boat operating within the waterways to remove trash.

“We are combating litter at every angle possible,” Stimpson wrote in a statement. “There will be boots on the ground and boats in the water to remove trash in our waterways. Litter clean-up remains a top priority for my administration, because a great city is a clean city.”

The contract runs through June 2016.

The council held over for two weeks a vote on a repeal of a portion of the sign ordinance, following a decision on a U.S. Supreme Court case out of Arizona, stating that a sign ordinance cannot restrict content-based freedom of speech.

An affirmative vote on the agenda item would repeal a portion of the ordinance titled “Yard, garage sale or other unauthorized temporary signs,” until the city’s legal department can work out what the ruling means for that section of the law, Kessler said.

Council Vice-President Fred Richardson called for the issue to be taken up at an administrative services committee meeting on Tuesday, July 28 at 2 p.m.
Stimpson reminded residents that the litter ordinance was still being enforced, despite a delay on the sign issue.

Also, the council:

– Voted 5-0 to approve two contracts with Twin City Security LLC. The first, in the amount of $299,670, is for unarmed guards and protective services at various city facilities. The second was in the amount of $62,000 for armed protection at the magistrate’s office.

– Approved a $38,266 contract with Simplex Grinnell for fire alarm system repairs at various locations.

– Approved two separate contracts for citywide sidewalk repair and maintenance. One with Pope Testing Services LLC for $8,000 and one with McElhenney Construction Co. LLC for $463,969.

– Agreed to vacate an alley in the block between Lyons Park Avenue and Lambert Street for the University of South Alabama, as well one bounded on the south by St. Louis Street, on the west by Hamilton Street, on the north by St. Anthony Street and on the east by Franklin Street for Threaded Fasteners.

– Authorized Stimpson to apply for, accept and receive a $5,000 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant for Labor Day traffic enforcement.