MOBILE – During a finance committee meeting today, Mobile City Council members were presented with the first draft of a infrastructure improvement plan, which included a breakdown of project funding.
The plan gave initial estimated cost estimates for projects to be funded during the first year of a three-year process to address infrastructure issues, using money from the council-approved continuation of a 20 percent sales tax increase.
The plan, essentially, gives $3 million per year to each district over the next three years. However, Program Manager John Guilfoyle, with Hawksley Consulting, explained to councilors that the money wouldn’t shake out evenly each year, and planners would instead focus on making sure each district received $9 million worth of projects over three years, instead of guaranteeing $3 million a year.
Guilfoyle said the consultants reviewed close to 800 projects in 20 days to see which could move forward for funding in the next fiscal year. Of those 800 projects, 176 have been funded in the initial draft. Those projects not selected for funding in fiscal year 2016 will be pushed down to the priority list to subsequent years.
The amount of money for projects by districts in fiscal year 2016 breaks down as follows:
• District 1 will receive $2.6 million
• District 2 will receive $2.8 million
• District 3 will receive $4.7 million
• Districts 5, 6 and 7 will each receive $2.5 million.
In addition to the district-specific project funding, the plan also sets aside about $1.5 million for citywide projects, including lighting improvements for recreation centers. Examples of other projects include sidewalk repair and replacement in District 7 and road resurfacing in District 4.
Guilfoyle said the first draft has C.J. Small’s district receiving the most money because of $3.4 million needed in funding for the restoration of the southern portion of Ann Street.
The prioritization of projects was based on several factors, including community benefit and whether a project was “shovel ready,” meaning it could be started immediately, Guilfoyle said.
Councilmen Levon Manzie and Fred Richardson spoke up about what appeared to be disproportionate funding for District 3.
Manzie reminded Guifoyle and Executive Director of Planning and Development Dianne Irby that residents in District 2 also complained about portions of Ann Street. He said he just wanted to make sure the emphasis remained on Ann Street next year, when new funding would be available for the portion in his district.
Richardson complained the 2016 plan didn’t earmark enough money for the covering of open ditches in a District 1 neighborhood.
“I don’t put any project ahead of Trinity Gardens’ 42 open ditches,” he said. “We’re talking about $15 million to close them all and I don’t have more than $9 million.”
Irby did highlight that part of the District 1 money — about $160,000 — would be going for design work related to the ditches.
“You can’t buy shovels … for $160,000,” Richardson said.
Councilman Joel Daves, finance committee chairman, reminded councilors that this was a draft plan and more work would be done before it was finalized. Irby said she has scheduled time this week to talk further with each of the councilors individually about the plan.
The finance committee will have one more meeting on the topic before a possible council vote on Tuesday, Aug. 4.