The Mobile City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an amendment to take a portion of the revenue from a 20 percent sale tax increase and split it evenly among the city’s districts for infrastructure improvements.
With the approval, $21 million of a proposed total of $30 million in additional tax revenue will be split among the districts, for a total of $3 million each. The money is not discretionary, meaning the entire council will have to vote on how the money is spent in each district.
In addition to the money for each district, the general fund will receive $2.5 million, public safety will receive $2.5 million and $5 million will be put into the general fund.
Council President Gina Gregory said prior to the amendment, councilors appropriated funding for infrastructure projects, but had little input on the projects themselves.
“This amendment is about long-range planning,” Gregory said. “It gives the council and our constituents a voice.”
During the budget process, the council initially extended the one-cent sales tax proposal for three more years, by way of a 6-1 vote. Councilwoman Bess Rich was the lone dissenting vote. Mayor Sandy Stimpson vetoed the extension, but the council voted to override his veto, by a 5-2 vote. Gregory and Rich voted to support Stimpson’s veto.
Even Councilman Joel Daves, who voted against recommending the measure during a finance committee meeting Nov. 14, said he was persuaded to support the amendment after speaking with colleagues and members of the administration.
Daves said he was concerned that splitting the revenue seven ways would prevent larger projects affecting multiple districts in the city from being realized. He has since been assured that councilors would work together to accomplish larger projects.
“I continue to have concerns about this, but I will be supporting it in order to give it a chance,” he said.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he supported the measure and acknowledged the strides the city has made since he took office to make more money available for capital improvements. In the past year, the Stimpson administration increased money for capital projects from $3.5 million in 2014 to more than $14 million set aside in 2015 and $21 million after that.
He said the “significant” vote helps to fulfill a vision he had to spend more money on infrastructure improvements.
“This is a huge, huge deal,” Stimpson said.
Councilman Fred Richardson said he will attempt to meet with citizens in his district in order to begin to develop a three-year strategic plan. He said he wants to hear what issues citizens would like to see resolved using $9 million over three years. Some issues, like flooding and drainage problems would have to be addressed first.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Richardson said of the move. “I think we’re looking at this in the right manner.”
In other business, the council voted to authorize a $69,000 contract with Dorsey and Dorsey Engineering for a litter trap and site improvement on land just north of the McVay Bridge in Eslava Creek.
City Engineer Nick Amberger said with approval the trap could be in place by April of next year. He said the site improvements associated with the contract should also allow the trap to be emptied more easily.
The council also voted to authorize a $175,692 professional services contract with Ascendant Strategy Management Group to develop management policies and protocols to achieve objectives, as outlined in the city’s strategy map. Executive Director of Planning and Development Diane Irby said grant money would cover most of the cost.
The council appointed Terry Plauche to the Mobile Tree Commission and Rufus Hudson to the History Museum Board.
Robert Jackson was named Mobile Police Department Officer of the Month for October and was honored by Stimpson at the meeting. In October, Jackson made seven felony arrests, 19 misdemeanor arrests and carried out 121 calls.
Due to Veterans Day Nov. 11, the Council met on Wednesday last week, and Lagniappe was unable to print that the council approved a $320,667 contract with Aeiker Construction Company for a skate park at Public Safety Memorial Park in Midtown. Local businesses have agreed to donate funds for the project, once ground is broken.
Councilwoman Rich wrote in an email to constituents that the contract reduced the costs to build the park by $100,000 from plans released last year. She said she was pleased to learn supporters were committed to raising funds to support the city’s effort.