The Mobile County Commission got a new president this morning, as District 3 Commissioner Jerry Carl rotated into the seat that has been occupied by Commissioner Connie Hudson for the past 16 months.As president, Carl will chair the biweekly meetings of the commission and will also act as the chief elected official during any declared emergency or disaster in Mobile County. Despite the new title, the move doesn’t give Carl’s vote any more weight on the three-member commission — one of the smallest in the state of Alabama.
District 1 Commissioner Merceria Ludgood will also rotate into Carl’s old position as Vice President of the Commission.
“It’s truly an honor to be able to serve Mobile County as the president of the commission, but I really don’t view it as much different than what I’ve been doing,” Carl said. “We’re still going to represent the taxpayers of Mobile County. I may have to attend more meetings and do a little more traveling but, I view my responsibilities to be the same whether I’m the president or not.”
One interesting perk of the new position is a seat on the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, which will oversee the distribution of RESTORE Act funding received from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Only weeks ago, BP settled its portion of multiple federal, state and local lawsuits for approximately $18.7 billion over the next 18 years. The local Recovery Council will have oversight of $599 million to award to environmental and economic development projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Mobile County has put several projects for potential RESTORE Act funding including $40 million submission for a proposed soccer and aquatic complex at the corridor of Interstates 10 and 65 that was submitted by Hudson.
That project, which Hudson has championed for more than a year, has been a point of contention between her and Carl, who had originally had a competing location in Irvington where he wanted to locate a soccer facility he claimed would be less expensive.
So far, Carl has voted against nearly every motion made in relation to the funding, studying or analysis of the soccer complex in Hudson’s preferred location. However, Carl said on Tuesday that limited funding via the RESTORE Act may have made the debate a moot point.
“I don’t think the RESTORE council is going to be quite the political hot spot we anticipated simply because the amount of money we’re dealing with,” Carl said. “Obviously, that (funding level) is a disappointment to all of us.”
Carl is not alone, as at least five other members of Alabama’s Gulf Coast Recovery Council have expressed “disappointment” in the final settlement with BP. One member, Alabama State Port Authority CEO Jimmy Lyons said the final dollar figure was about $400 million less than he anticipated.
Some have pointed the finger at Gov. Robert Bentley, whose office had a hand in negotiating the final settlement, but on Tuesday Carl said that might not be fair.
“Everybody is quick to blame Governor, but he didn’t set the price on any of that,” Carl said. “Obviously, there’s things I’d like to see done, but we’ve got to recalculate and see exactly how much we have. It’s still unclear because nobody has seen any true documentation.”
Carl is one of several government officials who’ve had trouble getting hard facts about the settlement because of a confidentiality agreement, which Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and the United States Department of Justice agreed to.