The Mobile City Council, on Thursday, passed a slew of local, state and federal agreements related to an ongoing grant project along Broad Street.
The resolutions dealing with funding for relocation of utilities came to a vote only after councilors were assured by members of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration that the agreements would not disturb any live oaks along the corridor. The resolutions were needed for the city to move forward with a $14.5 million project to revitalize Broad Street.
City Engineer Nick Amberger told councilors during a pre-conference meeting that a forthcoming construction contract, which the council will get to vote on, will be the mechanism by which the trees would ultimately come down. He said the resolutions on the agenda Thursday were funding agreements with the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
“Approving these does not cut any trees down,” Amberger said. ‘These are pieces to the puzzle.”
The council considered delaying the vote until Tuesday, March 19, in order to allow those opposed to the tree removal to present an appeal on a previous Tree Commission vote. However, members of the administration, including Stimpson himself, urged councilors to vote on the agreements to help the city meet a June deadline on the revitalization project.
“This is a critical part in all of this stuff,” Sitmpson told councilors. “It will help us stay on schedule. We really need to address these issues that are not controversial in a quick fashion.”
In addition to council approval, the agreements will have to be signed off on at both the state and federal level, which is what lead to some of the timing concerns.
On the tree removal issue, members of the administration say they’ve met with a concerned citizens group called the Government Street Collaborative. Stimpson described the two-hour meeting as “very good.” He told councilors the city agreed to make concessions that would save some of the roughly 60 live oaks that had been targeted for removal to make way for the multi-million project.
The city will save four trees that had been slated for removal by reducing plans for an 8-foot sidewalk to a 4-foot sidewalk, acting Chief of Staff Paul Wesch told the council. Also, the city will replace 11 of the live oaks slated for removal with other live oaks.
While it appears a compromise was reached, councilors noted that the appeal was still scheduled for Tuesday. Amberger said the agreements would be null and void if the council ultimately votes down the project’s construction contract.
In other business, the city delayed votes on public nuisance requests related to structures on Gorgas, Baltimore and Marine streets. The public nuisance request at 760 Marine Street was tabled indefinitely for legal reasons.
The other two properties are the subjects of possibile rehabilitation efforts by Restore Mobile, which was announced by Councilman C.J. Small at the pre-conference meeting. In addition, Small said he hopes the city can create a partnership with Bishop State Community College to allow its students to use homes in the Oakdale neighborhood to train.
For instance, BSCC offers classes in plumbing and air conditioning repair, and Small said those skills could be put to real-world use, while helping to fix up the homes. He said the idea came from a National League of Cities trip to St. Louis, where the Missouri city had a similar program to help revitalize neighborhoods.
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