Both candidates in Prichard’s mayoral election are confident in their position as new issues arise in the city ahead of the Oct. 6 runoff election.
With the election less than a week away incumbent Mayor Jimmie Gardner and challenger, Lorenzo Martin, differ on what to do about Prichard Stadium, as Vigor High School looks to play home football games at Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex, at least temporarily.
In a letter to Gardner and other city officials, Vigor Principal Gerald Cunningham complained about a non-functional scoreboard, 25-second clock, sound system and issues with lights as well as the overall cleanliness of the stadium. He wrote Vigor would forego its remaining home games there until the stadium was repaired and cleaned.
“The inadequate conditions of this stadium and the environment is extremely embarrassing to my coaching staff, football teams, student body, faculty/staff, visiting friends and family, citizens of Prichard, as well as the city of Prichard,” Cunningham wrote. “Every time we host an out-of-town team I find myself humbly apologizing to the principal or his/her designee because of the subpar condition of the stadium and/or something not working properly.”
Gardner seems unwilling to spend city money to make the requested repairs, which he estimated could cost as much as $500,000.
“When I talk to residents, they’re more focused on other priorities,” Gardner said. “They care more about drainage and resurfacing than they do about an underused stadium.”
In fact, Gardner said the residents who call his office have never even brought up the stadium and those who contact him are more concerned about the city’s parks.
While Martin, the District 1 city councilman, stopped short of committing himself to a full renovation of the stadium, he did say a large chunk of the issues at the field were cosmetic in nature and could easily be covered in the city’s operating budget.
“We have to do it,” Martin said of stadium repairs. “The bulk of it is cleaning with water, soap and paint. It’s not expensive at all. It’s just a matter of getting it done.”
Even repairs to the scoreboard, 25-second clock and issues in the restrooms are fixable under the current city budget, Martin said.
“All these things are very doable,” he said. “It is not so costly that we could not fix them from within the budget.”
Also at issue for the candidates is an apparent lack of communication between the Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board (PWWSB) and the city. Gardner called a press conference Monday, Sept. 28 to alert residents and others of a water main issue at Watkins and Main streets, which caused a loss of service in the area.
Gardner told members of the press in attendance via Zoom the board had not alerted the city of the problem, so the government could not tell residents about it. He blamed board members for the lack of communication between the sides. He also complained about high water bills and claimed the meter at his house had not been read properly, if at all.
Martin called the entire press conference “a spin” and said he had met with PWWSB Director Nia Bradley Monday morning about several of the issues Gardner had brought up. Martin claimed if he could get a meeting with Bradley then Gardner could too.
As the election nears both Gardner and Martin feel they’re in a good position with voters. Gardner, who got the greatest number of votes out of nine mayoral candidates in August, said he believes he can maintain his lead over Martin. Martin, on the other hand, believes the majority of the 1,100 total votes for the other seven candidates should head his way in the runoff.
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