The Mobile City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to transfer nearly $500,000 from a completed park project to make improvements to Hank Aaron Stadium ahead of the 2015 Mobile BayBears season opener in April. With the $464,649 transfer, the city will install an improved lighting system, upgrades to the audio system and field rail padding at the 17-year-old facility.
Council President Gina Gregory was absent from the meeting and Councilwoman Bess Rich was the lone dissenting vote on the measure.
Rich argued the club still owes the city $150,000 in back rent for use of the stadium. She also tasked the administration with reviewing aspects of the contract in regard to lighting and whether the city or the club was responsible for light bulbs.
“They have not fulfilled their obligations, but they want us to commit money for stadium upgrades,” Rich said.
“Yes, the stadium is our responsibility, but the lights are adequate for high school and college games.”
Rich said she wouldn’t vote in favor of the move until a new contract is negotiated with the BayBears.
Councilmen Joel Daves and Levon Manzie both said they disagreed with Rich on the issue, adding that transferring the funds would mean the city is taking care of its responsibility.
“This is a city-owned facility whether we have an occupant there or not,” Manzie said. “We have a responsibility to make the improvements.”
Additionally, Manzie mentioned new Southern League stadiums in Pensacola and Biloxi, as a reason why Mobile should keep Hank Aaron Stadium up to date. He added that the completion of the McGowin Park shopping center would mean a boost in economic development around the stadium.
“I think this is a move we need to make,” he said.
Diversity among contractors
The council voted to establish a Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Contracting Opportunities for Small Business and Minority-Owned firms, following the recommendation of the Administrative Services Committee last Thursday.
The committee would study how other cities, like New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago, have addressed minority business partnerships and how those cities have leveled the playing field in terms of procurement, Manzie said.
Comprised of council appointees, the committee will be given three months to report their recommendations to the council.
In addition to the council committee, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper announced last week the city was considering a new position for a Chief Procurement Officer. Cooper made the announcement official Tuesday, telling councilors Stimpson would shed more light on the subject later this week.
The new executive staff member would also be charged with starting a supplier diversity program, among other responsibilities. The person appointed to the position will work to streamline the dozen or so procurement processes existing throughout the city, as well as focus on modernizing the city’s procurement process through internal and external technological means, while also developing a “robust stakeholder outreach program” that would include input from the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, private businesses and nonprofit organizations, Cooper said.
With the approval of the advisory committee, councilors voted to table an earlier ordinance introduced by Councilman Fred Richardson that would request the number of minority employees of prospective city contractors.
The council voted to reduce the length of time requested by O’Daly’s Irish Pub for a waiver of the noise ordinance from midnight to 11 p.m. on Feb. 6, after hearing a complaint from a downtown resident about the amount of noise the business generated.
Casey Ginn, of St. Francis Street, said he has no problem with the time listed on the waiver, but said the bar is too noisy. He said he was at the council meeting speaking on behalf of the neighborhood.
“It rattles my dishes,” he said of the sound level heard from his apartment. “I can’t hear my TV.”
Manzie suggested he would meet with O’Daly’s management to see what kind of modifications can be made. Rich recommended the waiver be cut by one hour, from midnight to 11 p.m. She said in previous situations, Mobile Police Chief James Barber has requested the council not approve noise ordinance waivers past 11 p.m., if the property is adjacent to residential property.
“I think 11 is reasonable,” Manzie said.
MoonPie Over Mobile
Mobile’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration brought approximately 50,000 to 60,000 revelers downtown, Events Mobile President Carol Hunter said. Using standard crowd tracking, Hunter said an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people were near the stage, while another 10,000 or so were in businesses downtown.
She reported to the council that hotels downtown were 90 to 100 percent filled and hotels at the Beltline and at Tillman’s Corner also booked rooms because of the event.
Hunter reported David Rasp, owner of Heroes and the Royal Scam, said he had about the same sales as last year’s event, but was busy. She said business was up 15 percent over last year at O’Daly’s.
In other business, the council authorized an agreement with Mobile County, the cities of Prichard, Satsuma, Saraland, Chickasaw, Creola, Bayou la Batre, Semmes, as well as the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, Wave Transit System and the state for a transportation planning process.
The council also authorized a $458,345 contract with Gulf Equipment for bridge repair and a $49,500 contract with Apex Construction, LLC for sidewalks and park improvements at Theodore Park.
The council also authorized an agreement worth $150,000 to allow the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau to retain a marketing firm to rebrand the city and area.