Plans for a big holiday-themed event might be slowly melting away following the Mobile City Council meeting Tuesday.
Councilors learned Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration won’t be bringing back the portable ice skating rink known as Riverside Ice this year and don’t have any specific plans to replace it.
City spokesman George Talbot said the administration wanted to move the event from its previous location at Cooper Riverside Park to the newly opened Mardi Gras Park, but apparently ran into logistical problems.
“We’re looking at bringing it back in 2018 at a more central location,” Talbot said.
He confirmed that other seasonal downtown events such as the Christmas tree and menorah lightings would go on as scheduled, as well as the Downtown Mobile Alliance’s Elfapalooza.
Learning that the skating rink would not be happening this year, DMA Executive Director Elizabeth Stevens said downtown retailers had asked her about reviving the North Pole Stroll event. Stevens and the Business Incentive District board approached the city for $40,000 that had been budgeted by the city as part of a previous performance contract, but not yet allocated, to help with the event. This money would be in addition to a $120,000 performance contract BID had negotiated with administration officials and was set to receive in 2018, pending a vote of the council on Tuesday. The money for the holiday event was not scheduled for a vote.
Of the $40,000, Stevens said $25,000 would be used to put on the North Pole Stroll this year and the other $15,000 would be used for decorations that could be reused in subsequent years.
During a discussion of the performance contract vote, John Williams added an amendment to include the $40,000 event payment with the $120,000 performance contract, but the vote failed 6-1 with only Williams voting in favor.
Several councilors expressed concern over earmarking the money before the city came up with a replacement event of its own. Councilman C.J. Small said he had confidence the administration would plan an event everyone in the city could enjoy, unlike the skating rink.
Councilman Levon Manzie said he was “hesitant” to support the $40,000 payment to the BID because it’s unknown at this point what the city has planned.
“We’ve been told there will be a robust celebration in Mobile,” he said. “We don’t know how much that will cost. I look forward to hearing back from the administration on what we will do and how much it will cost.”
Manzie added that he’s hesitant to agree to a one-time payment because if the event is successful, it could require them to shell out the same amount next year.
Councilman Fred Richardson discussed the possibility of bringing back the city’s Christmas parade, which was nixed by the Stimpson administration. Richardson said the city should’ve left the parade “well enough alone.”
“We cut the Christmas parade and tried this, that and another thing and couldn’t match the Christmas parade,” Richardson said. “We ought to go back to the Christmas parade because it brings joy to the hearts of all the citizens in Mobile.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich initially had doubts the city could organize and pull off a Christmas parade with such short notice.
“With any parade, you’re talking about next year,” she said.
She later conceded it might be possible. She also asked for the council to vote again next week on the $40,000 payment for the holiday event.
The council did approve, by a 6-1 vote, the $120,000 performance contract for the BID, with the caveat that a councilor will be given the opportunity to serve on the BID’s board, similar to an agreement the county has with the BID. Williams voted against the measure.
The council again delayed a vote on Stimpson’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budgets, as questions regarding longevity pay for firefighters, GulfQuest funding and county rent payments remain unanswered.
In other business, Stimpson announced an event from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Figures Park to celebrate the city’s collaboration with New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins on a tournament-style basketball court at the park. The event, known as “Boogie’s Block Party,” is free to the public and will celebrate the groundbreaking of the new court.
The council delayed a vote on the replacement of traffic signal controllers along Airport Boulevard from Sage Avenue to the Pinebrook Shopping Center. The new controllers will synchronize the lights and lead to better traffic flow.