On Oct. 14, the Mobile County Commissioners are going to spread money around to schools, employees and firefighters if all goes as planned. Some of the money being used to help is actually coming from one commissioner’s salary.
For the second year in a row, District 3 Commissioner Jerry Carl gave up his salary and benefits, which is $106,068.57, and moved it to his district’s funds.
He said it’s something that he felt led to do after he prayed about the matter.
“I gave my salary and benefits last year so really this just carries this back over,” Carl said. “I believe the money went to build a road and sidewalks near schools. It went to different projects that were need in District 3.
“After praying about this, I realized it’s something I should do. It’s my way of giving back,” he said.
The commissioner said he doesn’t have any specific plans for the money he will give up. Carl and Commissioner Connie Hudson also used money another pot to make the subsistence allowance equal among every employee working 40 hours per week.
Hudson dedicated $150,000 from her Education Fund and Carl took $300,000 from his Education and Commission District funds to supplement money needed for subsistence allowance.
Currently, the county pays its employees an additional $10 per eight-hour day. Many employees work five, eight-hour days and are therefore given $50 weekly.
However, there are employees who work four, 10-hour days and only receive $40 every week. Carl pushed for this to be equalized during budget discussions, but didn’t initially receive the support he needed. Hudson said she would look into taking the money needed from her education fund, which she ultimately decided to do.
Each commissioner receives $300,000 annually in the form of an Education Fund. The money is supposed to be spent on the schools within the districts, although commissioners have discretion as to how it is spent.
Part of the education fund money from Carl and Hudson helped the subsistence pay, but some of Hudson’s money went to another area.
Hudson was also instrumental in the county entering into an agreement with the city of Semmes, which will take ownership, operate and maintain the Mobile County Fire Training Tower. It will be used to train firefighters in a realistic setting.
The commissioner “stockpiled” education fund money over the years and was able to pay for the $307,000 training tower.
“We don’t have adequate existing facilities to train the large numbers of firefighters working throughout the county in difficult and dangerous circumstances,” Hudson said. “These tools are critical.”
Not only should the new tower help decrease insurance rates in the county, but it will also be much easier for county firefighters.
“Training is currently very hard to come by and travel to Tuscaloosa to the Fire College is really the only other option,” said Creola Fire Chief Jeff Reeves, president of the Mobile County Association of volunteer Fire Chiefs. “This facility will provide an excellent resource to area volunteer firefighters and concurrently the citizens who receive their assistance.”
The tower will be used by all fire departments in the county with the exception of the city of Mobile.
Commissioner Merceria Ludgood also spearheaded a project. She was able to use $100,000 from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help North Mobile Middle School.
North Mobile Middle is a 4-year-old school serving kindergarten through eighth grade with no playground or outdoor sports facilities.
The $100,000 will fund backstops, dugouts and perimeter fencing for the baseball and softball fields; a multi-lane track around the football field area, portable bleacher sets, and playground equipment for K-8 grade levels.
North Mobile Middle School Principal Randy Campbell was ecstatic when he heard the news.
“It gives me goose bumps,” he said. “This will transform access to the school (for the parents). And it’s going to allow us to better organize outdoor activities programs. We have a lot of them through the PE program, but most are inside.”
Hudson also earmarked $20,000 from CDBG funds that will go to Wilmer Elementary School for a fitness obstacle course, and canopies/covered walkways to portable classrooms.
The commission will vote on all these issues Oct. 14, but they are expected to be approved.