The Mobile City Council delayed for a week a vote on shrinking the city’s police jurisdiction from three miles to 1.5 miles.
The delay came one week after a council decision to vote the item down due to lack of a supermajority or five affirmative votes and as Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office confirmed it is working more closely with the county on the issue.
Stimpson’s administration has drawn the ire of the Mobile County Commission over the issue, which is expected to save the city $1.5 million in resources but put more of a burden on the county. The bill that made the scaleback possible was introduced in the state Legislature earlier this year. It dealt with island annexation and had support from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, Executive Director Sonny Brasfield said. A last-minute change to the bill allowed cities to shrink police jurisdictions by half, which the association did not fight.
“We did not oppose it when it was added,” Brasfield said. “We felt the other gains outweighed the negative aspects of the bill.”
Regardless of how the council votes in the coming weeks, the city is only required to provide service in the police jurisdiction that is equal to the amount of business license fees collected in the area, Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch wrote in an email. In 2015, the city collected just over $2.1 million in license fees in the three-mile police jurisdiction. In contrast, Wesch said, the city spent more than $20 million in resources responding to calls in the area during that same time.
Wesch said the $1.5 million in savings applies only to the outer 1.5-miles of the current three-mile police jurisdiction. Expenditures for police and fire in that outer band alone topped $5 million in 2015, he said. The indirect costs were not added to that figure. The move would cause the city to lose almost $3.5 million in tax and business license revenue in the outer 1.5-mile band, Wesch said.
To further complicate the issue, Brasfield said the city could still limit police and fire protection and put funds for the police jurisdiction into roads in the area. State law only requires the amount of revenue brought in to be used for services within the police jurisdiction.
New contract for janitorial services
The council also delayed a vote on a new contract for janitorial services for the city. The council did not vote on the three-year contract worth a total of $500,000 with ServiceMaster on its first week on the agenda, despite the expiration of the previous agreement expected this week. City attorney Ricardo Woods said after the meeting that the delay could mean the city is without janitorial services for a few days, but he added that he’d try to work something out.
Woods said the city had previously entered into an agreement with JaniKing for janitorial services, but recently gave the company 30-day notice that it would going in a different direction. The city then went through a long bid process and finally settled on ServiceMaster last week. The contract was added to the agenda during the council’s pre-conference meeting. The council delays voting on most items over a certain value on first read.
In addition, some councilors seemed concerned about the number of disadvantaged business enterprises involved in the large contract. ServiceMaster, a national firm, is not minority owned and doesn’t give work to subcontractors, Brad Christensen, director of real estate asset management, said.
“This is bad news,” Richardson said. “Because of our laws, we need a DBE on this.”
A portion of the Zoghby Act, the law that set up the city’s current form of government, requires that the city make a best effort to ensure that all contracts include at least 15 percent participation from disadvantaged business enterprises.
Councilors interpret this requirement differently. For instance Councilman Joel Daves and Councilman John Williams argued that the intent of the law was to have 15 percent DBE participation combined on all the city contracts, not on each individual contract.
Councilman Levon Manzie said the administration has told him in the past that DBEs couldn’t be secured for some of the contracts because firms with minority owners don’t specialize in the work. Tuesday, he said he found that harder to believe with janitorial services.
In fact, Supplier Diversity Manager Archnique Kidd said there was one other qualified bidder for the work and although the company was owned by a woman, the bid came in at $52,000 more than the ServiceMaster bid. Kidd said since there was more than a 10 percent difference in the two bids, state law required the city to take the lowest one.
Council President Gina Gregory seemed surprised that the contract was held up at the regular meeting. She said she thought councilors had agreed to vote on it at the earlier meeting, despite its late addition to the agenda.
“Janitorial services are very important …. Some facilities are more important than others,” she said. “It came up suddenly, but I thought we’d agreed to vote on it.”
Jason Johnson contributed to this report.
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