The Mobile City Council on Tuesday approved purchase orders and suggested a change to an ordinance members believe will bring greater transparency to city operations without slowing down city business.
The change, suggested by Councilman John Williams, would place purchase orders, contracts and other bid documents totaling less than $50,000 on the council’s consent agenda, which would allow a vote on the items on first read of the agenda without unanimous consent.
Items totaling more than $50,000 would be placed on the regular agenda and be subject to a one-week delay per council rules, Williams said.
The amendment was added to the agenda sometime between the council’s preconference meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday and the regular meeting at 10:30 a.m. It followed a rather tense exchange between Williams and Councilwoman Bess Rich, which resulted in Williams leaving the early meeting before it adjourned.
Rich asked council attorney Wanda Cochran if the city was already acting under the ordinance, despite it being the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the council. Cochran affirmed, adding that work was also underway on possible revisions.
“With the lack of communication, I’m having trouble understanding …,” Rich said.
Williams asked Rich to stop talking about the ordinance, telling her a remedy could be reached later in the day. While she continued to ask questions, Williams walked away, out of the ninth floor conference room and toward the council offices.
“This is not the time,” Williams said before he left.
After the regular meeting, Williams explained he didn’t feel comfortable discussing the ordinance in the public meeting due to repercussions it may have for the lawsuit.
“I am concerned over talking about differences we may have over something that is currently being litigated in one form or another,” Williams said. “We need to be careful when we speak openly [about it].”
The amendments to the ordinance, Williams said, would provide the contractual transparency the council sought in passing the ordinance, while also not being a burden to city operations. The plan, he said, is similar to the way the council handles capital improvement items, where anything over $50,000 is usually delayed one week. But, Williams emphasized, the amendment does not mean every contract or purchase order over $50,000 will be automatically held over.
In other business, councilors approved $4 million in incentives for the new Airbus final assembly line at the Brookley Aeroplex. The new facility will produce the A220 aircraft. The city will provide the cash incentive to the aircraft manufacturer over 10 years. The agreement would help Airbus provide apprenticeships, similar to a European model already in place.
In conjunction, councilors also approved incentives for FlightWorks Alabama, which will provide students and others opportunities to learn more about the aerospace industry.
This story was edited on Thursday, Jan. 17 to correct an action the City Council took.
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