What a difference a week makes. Last week, Councilmen Levon Manzie and Fred Richardson made last-minute amendments to the administration’s plan to spend millions in federal grant money that Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office said would threaten the entire program. This week, The Mobile City Council approved the 2015 Action Plan unanimously without any amendments.
Councilors and the administration all said the differences had been worked out. More specifically, the administration will add another level to the process to allow councilors to have input before the plan is advertised and a 30-day public comment period begins, Director of Community Planning and Development Nigel Roberts said after Tuesday’s meeting.
During last week’s council meeting, Manzie offered two amendments to the plan to allocate roughly $3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Community Development Block Grants to help expand economic opportunities to low and middle income residents through a number of projects.
The first amendment would’ve taken $50,000 from a $650,000 housing rehabilitation program and put it toward a sidewalk project for Mobile Street in Richardson’s district. The second amendment would’ve replaced a $120,000 rental rehabilitation program with a walking trail for the Africatown Historic District in Manzie’s district.
The vote was held over and neither amendment was added to the plan when it was approved Tuesday.
Manzie thanked Roberts and the administration for working to find a resolution to the issue. He added his move to make amendments to the plan was not “political,” but was “people-motivated.”
“We’ve come to an amenable resolution,” he said.
The plan would also provide $200,000 for engineering for repairs to Baltimore Street, as well as $513,000 for affordable rental housing.
Handbill ordinance held up again
Despite the council’s public services committee’s recommendation to pass an ordinance that would require advertising circulars be tossed on the porches or doorsteps of homes, the council held over a vote on the new law for two more weeks.
Councilman Joel Daves recommended the holdover after the council received a letter from Alabama Media Group attorney Archie Reeves on Friday. Daves said the extra time would allow councilors to work out issues with the ordinance.
In the letter, Reeves called the ordinance “unconstitutional” because it “acts to restrict, and even ban, protected speech.”
For example, Reeves said, the requirement to place the Gulf Coast Life circulars on the porch of homes would not be “economically feasible” and raises questions about the city’s authority.
“It is not clear on what grounds the city can interfere with the arrangement between (Advance Central Services, Alabama) and residents, based, in part, on long-time practices, as well as explicit and implicit agreements, as to how our publications will be distributed on the residents private — not public — property,” he wrote.
Reeves argued that placing the circulars in the yards of residents was far less intrusive than putting on their doorstep, or porch.
Reeves added that Alabama Media Group would continue to “fine-tune” its opt out hotline for Gulf Coast Life. The number is on the front of the circulars. To opt out call 251-219-5015 and follow the prompts.
Reeves said without changes, Advance Central Services would likely file a lawsuit against the city challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.
The council approved four contracts, valued at a total of $290,684.70, for cutting grass and picking up litter along major thoroughfares in the city.
The contracts includes a $114,941 deal with Greenskeepers Lawn & Landscaping for right-of-way mowing services along Airport Boulevard, University Boulevard, Dauphin Street, Springhill Avenue, Michigan Avenue, as well as downtown along Canal, South Claiborne, South Conception, Water, Beauregard, North Lawrence and North Broad streets.
The council approved another mowing contract worth $129,303 with Jubilee Landscape Management, Inc. for right-of-way cutting along Government Street from east of Eslava Creek to Bellingrath Road. The council also approved a $29,430 mowing contract with Complete Management Group, LLC. for right-of-way cutting along Hillcrest Road from Airport Boulevard to Girby Road.
The final contract was awarded to Eric’s Lawn Care, LLC. It was worth $17,010 and provides service along Dauphin Island Parkway from Gosson Street to Faye Street.
The contracts stipulate a mowing cycle of once every 14 days in April and October and options for a seven-day cycle, from May to September. The city defines a mowing cycle as having a street mowed, trimmed, edged, litter removed and blown once as a complete cycle (unless the city notifies the owner otherwise). The city has the right to tell vendors when to change the mowing cycles based on weather conditions, according to a statement from Stimpson’s office.
In other business, the council tabled the reappointment of Donald Adams to the Codes Advisory Committee because of litigation filed against the city from a local electricians’ union, of which he is president. Councilors said they wanted to wait to see if the lawsuit would be dismissed.
Rossler called the lawsuit “moot” because it’s based on an appointment to the city’s board of electrical examiners. The local union filed suit after the council failed to approve its appointee to that board, Rossler said. The suit claims that the union’s appointee must be appointed by council, but Rossler said he interpreted the law differently.
The council changed the ordinance to reflect their interpretation of the law and the appointment was made.