A proposed oil tank farm just 900 feet from a residential area, the future of the Saenger Theater and spending more than $1.5 million on ditch repair dominated the discussion during the Sept. 3 Mobile City Council meeting.

Mayor Sam Jones notified the council that American Tank and Vessel withdrew their plans to locate a “petroleum storage and distribution facility” at 1000 Paper Mill Road, which is in the Plateau community.

The site selected by American Tank and Vessel would have brought 32 tanks, 10 new railroad tracks, a pipeline station and barge dock. The 32 tanks would be able to hold up to 2,390,000 barrels of petroleum-based products.

“As of now, the company has only said the tanks will hold petroleum products, but the city has not been told what that is,” Jones said. “That, along with the fact it’s close to residential and historic areas and a threat to Mobile River and the Bay is why we sent a letter to the planning commission asking for them to deny the proposal.”

Jones’ letter, which he sent Sept. 3, sent a strong message, but American Tank and Vessel withdrew their proposal with the planning commission on Aug. 30.

The mayor said he believes the company realized the planning commission was going to deny it and decided to withdraw rather than being denied. The benefit to withdrawing a plan is that the company can resubmit a plan to the planning commission at any time. If the company would have been denied, then the business is forced to wait six months before submitting to the planning commission again.

The tank storage and distribution facility debate is not over, Jones said.
“I don’t think it’s a question of if they will resubmit. I think it’s a matter of when they will resubmit,” he said.

District 2 City Councilman William Carroll represents the area that would be affected by the tank facility. He said he vehemently opposes the placement of the tanks in the district, near a residential area and so close to Mobile River.

While the city was quick to act on the tank proposal, the councilors are taking their time on selecting who will manage the Saenger Theater.

On Aug. 28, Robert Bostwick with the city’s Cultural and Civic Development Department submitted an agreement for the Saenger Theater to be managed by SMG, which already manages the Mobile Civic Center.

In the agreement, the Saenger would be managed by SMG, but Huka Entertainment, which produces the Hangout Festival, would book the acts to play in the historic theater.

If approved, the agreement would begin Oct. 1 and go through Sept. 30, 2016. The city could also extend the terms for up to three additional one-year periods.

SMG would be paid by receiving 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the net operating loss/profit and then 25 percent of the net operating loss/profit if the theatre brings in more than $200,000.

The city would still be responsible for capital equipment and improvements to the theatre. However, SMG is responsible for routine maintenance.

SMG Regional General Manager Sam Voisin said it’s a good deal for the city.
“In essence, the city won’t have to pay SMG anything if we don’t improve the bottom line,” he said. “It’s an incentive for SMG and Huka to do better and it’s a benefit for the city.”

The council held the decision over until Sept. 10, so they could look further into some contractual issues. There will be a cultural committee meeting Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. on the ninth floor of Government Plaza to discuss the proposed agreement between the city and SMG.

The largest expenditure on the city’s agenda for Sept. 3 came from repairing several drainage ditches on Curry, Lindholm and Larose Drives, Llanfair, Spring Hill Golf Course and Bolton’s Branch.

City engineer Nick Amberger said the ditches, which are concrete, needed improvements and the cost to the city would in total be $1,507,657.

District 1 Councilman Fred Richardson said he would support spending more than $1 million on ditch repair in other districts, but took issue with the location.

Richardson has been lobbying for various grass ditches in his district to be cut and cleaned for months. He has also been trying to get the ditches cemented as well. He said the work on ditches has been too much in one area lately.

“The ditch repairs are still on top of the hill. It’s time for that to come down into the valley,” he said. “I have 42 ditches in my area, and we’re spending more than $1 million on top of the hill.”

District 3 Councilman CJ Small also asked for the grass ditches in his area to be cut.

“District 3, like Mr. Richardson’s, has a number of grass ditches,” he said. “It would be much cheaper to cut the grass there than keep on repairing concrete ditches. It’s something to consider.”

Richardson also asked for help with his ditches from the Jones administration and also the incoming administration with mayor-elect Sandy Stimpson.

In keeping with the Aug. 27 election, the council approved the results of the municipal election during the Sept. 3 meeting. The election results officially declared District 4 City Councilman John Williams and Small winners of the council elections. Stimpson is officially the next mayor of Mobile.

On Oct. 8, District 2 residents will go back to the polls to choose between Levon Manzie and Greg Vaughan for their councilman.

At the end of the council meeting, City Clerk Lisa Lambert announced there would be a public hearing about the proposed 2013-2014 city budget on Sept. 17 during the council meeting.