Despite support from a majority of the Mobile City Council, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposal to reduce the city’s police jurisdiction from three miles to 1.5 miles failed. In order to pass, the two items on the agenda dealing with the rollback of police and fire services to areas 1.5 miles outside of the city limits would have required an affirmative vote from five councilors.
Both agenda items — an ordinance reducing the police jurisdiction and a memorandum of understanding allowing coverage to continue through the end of 2016 — failed to reach that threshold, with councilmen C.J. Small, Fred Richardson and Levon Manzie voting in opposition. The administration had touted the move as a way to save the city $1.5 million through a reallocation of police and fire resources.
The failure comes after Stimpson had offered a compromise, which the other four councilors supported. The agreement presented to council Tuesday would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018, but the city would stop receiving sales tax revenue and business license fees from the outer 1.5-mile area at the start of next year. The compromise was designed to give the county time to adequately adjust its resources.
“This takes all the stated reasons against this off the table,” Councilman Joel Daves said in a pre-conference meeting. “I have a great amount of respect for the County Commissioners and empathy for the residents in the outer band … Their interest is not to alter the current arrangement. We were elected to represent the residents of Mobile and providing services to the police jurisdiction is not a good deal for the citizens of Mobile.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich said she supported the reduction to help improve response times within her district and throughout the city. Council President Gina Gregory and Councilman John Williams also voted in favor of the police jurisdiction reduction and agreement.
In 2015, the city collected just over $2.1 million in license fees in the three-mile police jurisdiction. In contrast, Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch has said, the city spent more than $20 million in resources responding to calls in the area during that same time.
Wesch said the $1.5 million in savings applies only to the outer 1.5-miles of the current three-mile police jurisdiction. Expenditures for police and fire in that outer band alone topped $5 million in 2015, he said. The indirect costs were not added to that figure. The move would cause the city to lose almost $3.5 million in tax and business license revenue in the outer 1.5-mile band, Wesch said.
Manzie said he didn’t understand why the city was rushing to make the change when it could be passed after Oct. 1 and still go into effect in 2018. Richardson challenged the numbers related to the amount of savings the change would bring.
“We’re doing it for some other reason, it’s not for that,” Richardson said of possible savings.
Both Manzie and Richardson on Tuesday and Small in a previous interview said it wasn’t worth making the change at the expense of hurting the city’s relationship with the county. Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the city would go with the “status quo,” but that the issue would be revisited.
In other business, the council delayed a vote on Stimpson’s proposed $249 million 2017 fiscal year budget. Daves has called a meeting of the council’s finance committee on Wednesday at 2 p.m. to discuss budget details.
The council also voted to approve a $511,571 contract with ServiceMaster for janitorial services in city facilities. The company had previously stated it didn’t use subcontractors, which raised concerns among some councilors over the participation of disadvantaged business enterprises in the contract.
Supplier Diversity Manager Archnique Kidd told councilors at the pre-conference meeting the city would attempt to find minority-owned suppliers to work with ServiceMaster.
The council also approved a $910,930 contract with Aeiker Construction Corporation for improvements to the playground at Medal of Honor Park.
The council also approved a lease agreement with Gulf Coast Ducks for use of warehouse space at 650 St. Anthony Street to store the company’s duck boats. The lease runs for one year with three renewal options. Under the terms of the lease, Gulf Coast Ducks will pay the city $8,700 in annual rent.