Prichard businessman Gabriel Dortch has decided to run for mayor of the city because he doesn’t believe the municipality has made any progress in four years under incumbent Mayor Jimmie Gardner.
“If Prichard was making progress I would not run,” he said.
Like many seeking office in the city, Dortch said he’s concerned about the financial health of one of Mobile County’s largest cities.
“I would do an external audit and do more to make sure the city hires people who are accountable,” Dortch said.
The owner of the nonprofit Prichard Boxing Academy, Dortch said he would then have the city’s budget itemized through each department in order to better keep track of spending and where taxpayer money is going. His goal as mayor would be to beautify the city and get it “$10 million to $15 million in the black.”
While Gardner has previously touted the city moving its garbage collection in-house as a positive step, Dortch believes it was a mistake. He believes going back to a contract service would save the city money.
“This was a bad idea,” he said. “Prichard is not ready for this. There’s a lot of questions that have to be answered.”
Dortch also believes Gardner has mishandled the city’s relationship with the Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board (PWWSB). The deteriorating relationship between the two entities, Dortch said, has had a negative impact on the city. Most directly, Dortch said, the mayor’s actions have allowed PWWSB to separate a $15 municipal fee from its normal water bills. This means residents can pay water bills and ignore the municipal fee without penalty.
Residents not paying the fee has resulted in a shortfall in the city’s budget, Dortch said.
“I would do some analysis to see what we could do to get people to pay the $15 municipal fee,” he said. “The citizens don’t want two bills.”
As for the ongoing disagreement between the water board and the city over fire hydrants, Dortch said he would work on a compromise between the two entities. He said under his administration, the Prichard Fire Department would be responsible for checking and maintaining the water pressure in hydrants, while the water board would be responsible for making sure the hydrants are in a specific location.
“We would allow the judicial side to take its course,” he said. “It should’ve been a working partnership all along.”
As for the $4 million loan Gardner secured to help the city buy garbage trucks, fire trucks, police vehicles and other city needs, Dortch questioned the city’s ability to pay back the Regions loan and the price of said vehicles.
“I want us to have fire trucks and police vehicles … but I also want us to be fiscally responsible,” Dortch said. “We could have used the same money for body cameras, instead of SUVs.”
Instead of using the loan money to purchase new vehicles, Dortch advocated for spending money on used vehicles.
“Why does everything have to be new?” Dortch asked.
In terms of the loan, Dortch said he couldn’t simply stop paying it back if he’s elected, but he would look for ways to refinance the debt.
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