The Mobile City Council on Tuesday approved a $30,000 contract with Shaun L. Wilson to nominate two new sites for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to nominating the Automobile Alley and Texas Hill historic districts to the national list, the allocation will help Wilson complete a survey of eight to 10 houses in Lewis Quarters to see if they can be added as well. Lewis Quarters is perhaps the most isolated neighborhood in Mobile — at the end of a dirt road sandwiched between Scotch Gulf Lumber and Interstate 165, southwest of the Africatown Historic District. Its intended designation would be similar to Africatown’s, Wilson said.
“The primary focus would be archeological,” he said.
Wilson said the addition of Lewis Quarters would be important because it would serve as a connection from the slave ship Clotilde to the slow shift in culture that progressed from its final shipment of human cargo in 1859.
While it could mean more historic development for the area around Africatown, Lewis Quarters would be its own district, Wilson said. Furthermore, he reported the addition of industrial areas nearby were slowed by the state this year, Wilson said.
He said he added industrial areas to this year’s grant application, but was told to remove them by someone at the state level. Wilson suspects the removal was spurred by the number of properties he had already added to the grant application.
Councilman Levon Manzie said he hopes Lewis Quarters will be recognized much in the same way as the larger Africatown Historic District, adding he believes it won’t be the last portion of the area added to the list.
“The community sees the boundaries of Africatown as one configuration and experts … have a slightly different configuration,” he said.
Manzie said the community would continue to work with Wilson and Cart Blackwell in trying to change the boundaries as much as possible.
Wilson said the contract will also allow him to add the building behind Barton Academy to the Church Street East Historic District and help place Lafayette Square Historic District on the city’s historic properties website.
The state will pay $15,000 and the city will pay $15,000 on the contract.
Reaction to police promotions
The Mobile Police Department on Friday promoted 28 sworn officers to new positions. In a letter addressed to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Council Vice President Fred Richardson joined Councilmen C.J. Small and Levon Manzie in expressing their disappointment that only seven of the 28 promoted officers were black.
At issue for the councilmen was a contract the council approved last year with Booth Research Group for up to $500,000 that was intended to make the promotion process more favorable toward minority candidates.
“Even after expending half a million dollars, the process yielded only one African-American above the rank of lieutenant,” the letter stated. “We know for a fact that there were several African-American candidates eminently qualified, through both experience and education, to serve in any of the leadership positions above the rank of captain.”
The city spent about $187,000 for Booth to recommend this first round of promotions, city spokesman George Talbot said.
Before the council meeting June 2, Richardson said while members were promised a more inclusive promotion policy within the police department, “quite the opposite is true.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Police Chief James Barber said a diverse group of experts were brought in to evaluate personnel for promotion.
“They took into consideration education, experience, training and practical exercise performance,” he wrote. “The process identified in rank order the performance of each employee to identify the absolute best candidates for promotion.”
Barber also wrote that he was confident in Booth’s selections.
“As the Chief of Police, it is my fundamental responsibility to ensure the safety of our community,” he wrote. “I will make no excuses or apologies for fielding the absolute best leadership team we can assemble to accomplish our mission to make the city of Mobile the safest city in America with respect for everyone.”
Bring Back Broad Street initiative
The council approved a resolution to allow the city to apply for a $13.6 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If awarded, the grant will provide funds for a complete rehabilitation project along Broad and Beauregard streets, including bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Additionally, Keri Coumanis with the city’s legal department told councilors a portion of Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue would be included to provide access to Three Mile Creek and help win the grant.
Coumanis said the section of Broad and Beauregard streets is the “perfect mix” because it would connect workers to transportation and industry, which is a major stipulation for the grant. The completed corridor would stretch from the WAVE transit headquarters at the GM&O building downtown to the Brookley Aeroplex and would also include Three Mile Creek.
In other business
The council approved an ordinance that would fall in line with new state legislation and streamline nuisance abatement procedures. Now, if the council declares a non-building property a nuisance once and the property falls back into disrepair, the city will be able to take care of it without advertising or bringing back before the City Council.
The council authorized an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation for slide repair on westbound Interstate 10 at Range Line Road. The council voted to allocate $105,000 for walking trail repairs at James M. Seals Jr. park. The money was taken from an unused portion of a capital line item for Herndon Park improvements.
The council also approved a $2 million sexual assault kit backlog elimination grant from the New York Attorney’s Office and a $1.4 million Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS grant, with a local three-year match of $469.406. Barber said the grant would help the department continue its hot spot policing efforts.
The city introduced the new Chief Procurement Officer at Tuesday’s meeting. Don Rose, who started Monday, June 1, will be paid $95,000 a year. The city will shortly begin looking for candidates to fill the position of supplier diversity officer to work in Rose’s office.
The next meeting of the City Council will be held Wednesday, instead of the usual Tuesday, at 10:30 a.m. at Government Plaza.