The Mobile City Council, on Tuesday, approved a $734,000 contract with Service Master to fix the mold problem at the Saenger Theatre and help it to reopen.
The council approved the emergency appropriation to avoid having to advertise bids on the remedy that would take Service Master about eight weeks to complete, Real Estate and Asset Management Director Brad Christensen told councilors.
The city chose Service Master over another bid it received from Servpro because it was less expensive and had an eight-week timeline rather than a 12-week timeline. Christensen said the timeline was a very important part of the decision.
In a Facebook post to friends and followers, the theater management put out a statement saying several shows had been moved from the Saenger to the Civic Center Theater due to issues involving a small amount of mold during the week of Aug. 26.
“We immediately notified the city of Mobile and city employees responded rapidly, as governmental and private sector experts determined the type of mold, its cause and treatment,” the statement read. “No toxic mold was found. In an abundance of caution, SMG and city officials have decided to close the theatre temporarily to ensure the safety of all patrons, artists and employees and to preserve a historic venue that has been an integral part of the Mobile community for 92 years.”
The cause of the mold has been identified and repaired, according to the statement. SMG is currently working with the promoters of its September and October shows in anticipation of the eight-week timeline.
“We are working hard to ensure that this project is completed as quickly as possible to minimize the disruption to our fall shows,” the statement read. “We appreciate the city’s quick response, and its commitment to the Saenger and its preservation.”
In other business, the council approved a $750,000 appropriation to the board of Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the installation of a walking trail and other capital improvements to the structure.
“I appreciate the administration working to see the money assigned to the walking trail,” Councilwoman Bess Rich said. “I’m glad to see this transpire.”
Council Vice President Levon Manzie, who represents the neighborhood around the stadium, said he agreed with Rich, adding that the walking trail would be “first-class.”
The council had originally given the Ladd board the additional $750,000 in a performance contract in last year’s budget. Instead of awarding the entire $950,000 contract, the mayor’s office only gave the board its typical $200,000 allotment. Officials in the mayor’s office have said the board does not have the authority to handle its own capital projects.
In addition to the appropriation, the council also approved an $8,000 contract with Watkins Acy Strunk for the walking trail design.
The council also heard from volunteer instructors at the city’s community centers who were concerned over a new process the Parks and Recreation Department was having them undertake.
City officials are requiring all instructors who organize classes in community centers to sign a facilities use agreement and undergo a criminal background check, even if they’re dealing only with adults.
Ken Kronebusch, a volunteer instructor, called the $18 background check requirement “silly” for adults teaching adults. He also complained that the use agreement put too much liability on instructors who are not paid for their work.
“We’ll do whatever you want as long as you make it clear that it is, or is not holding me liable,” he said. “If you can make that happen, I think classes will stay strong.”
Michael Whitsett told councilors he’s moved his line-dancing classes to Prichard because of this issue. He asked that the city include the $18 needed for the background check in the budget each year instead of forcing volunteers to pay for it. He said, like Kronebusch, he is concerned about the use agreement and who’s considered to be at fault if something happens, but “can’t get a straight answer” from city officials.
Parks and Recreation Director Shonnda Smith tried to alleviate some of those concerns at the meeting. She told councilors instructors would not have to purchase additional insurance and would only be held liable if someone was injured because of something they were teaching in a class held at a facility.
“The facilities use agreement does not force you to take on full liability,” she said. “We ask that you take responsibility for what you teach.”
Instructors could make class participants sign waivers in order to avoid this liability, however, instructors would still need to sign the facilities agreement, Smith said.
As for the background checks, she said that’s a “national standard.” Councilors, including Rich, Manzie and Fred Richardson, all offered to use discretionary funds to pay the $18 fees for the background checks.
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