Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex is set to get two new locker rooms, now that the Mobile City Council approved the fiscal year 2021 budgets.
Councilors approved the spending plan 6-0 at a regular meeting Tuesday, after reaching a compromise that would give the stadium $500,000. Only Councilman Fred Richardson abstained.
The funding, along with money allocated by the Mobile County Commission last year, would give the Ladd board $1 million for the updated changing rooms, Chairwoman Ann Davis told Lagniappe.
“They’ll be so much better than the ones we have now,” Davis said in a phone interview.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis said, the stadium’s leadership received several requests related to hosting college football games, including the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship. The 70-year-old stadium had one issue among conference leaders and that was the aging locker rooms.
“Their one thing against Ladd was the locker rooms,” she said. “We just realized that is what we’ve got to do to make it better. We knew that’s what we needed to do.”
The board had already approved the move “months ago,” Davis said, and was waiting for the funding to be put in place.
The appropriation for Ladd was not initially in Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposed $338 million general fund, capital fund and Convention Center budgets. However, Ladd officials asked for the additional money to match the county’s funds at a public hearing on the budget earlier this month. Stimpson agreed to add the funding at the council’s insistence.
As part of the compromise, Stimpson also added back an unfilled position that had previously been removed from the council office.
Councilors also approved an amendment offered by Councilwoman Bess Rich changing the funding for various capital projects in her district. Because a synthetic field would not be completed in Medal of Honor Park next year, Rich requested the $800,000 be split up among other various projects.
Instead of money for the synthetic field, Rich wanted $400,000 to go toward resurfacing in District 6 and another $400,000 to go toward sidewalks. She also wanted to add $80,000 to a previous line item related to Grelot Road beautification. The additional $80,000 would bring the line item up to $155,000 total. There was some confusion over whether Rich’s request needed to be a budget amendment or not.
“I didn’t think so, but this administration likes amendments for some reason,” she said.
The council voted down an amendment offered by Richardson, who has announced a campaign for mayor in 2021.
Richardson sought to add $1 million for a project to improve St. Stephens Road after his requests to have the money added were ignored by Stimpson’s office. In comments on Tuesday, Stimpson said he didn’t want to commit more money to the project beyond the $250,000 already programmed for the area without a better understanding of what was needed.
Plans for St. Stephens Road have already been discussed by Mobile’s Metropolitan Planning Organization through several community meetings, Richardson said. Plans include sidewalks, curbs and gutters along the corridor, as well as lighting and new trees.
Richardson had first suggested taking a portion of the budget’s balance to fund the $1 million line item he was trying to create, saying several districts received money from the fund, but his district was left out.
“The mayor placed in the budget various and sundry projects for up to $4.3 million and I am not opposed to those,” Richardson said. “The mayor placed not one dime in there for District 1. I understand the mayor is for One Mobile, the Mobile he likes. This is not for all Mobile.”
Stimpson told councilors Richardson was left out because the city had used similar money in previous years to fund improvements on Florida Street to make way for the Publix Shopping Center and the new Crichton Fire Station.
In response, Richardson said those were projects Stimpson had championed and did not originate from the council office.
Before voting against the amendment, which failed 6-1, Council President Levon Manzie told Richardson whether he wanted those specific previous improvements to District 1 or not, the funds had been spent.
“All of the money went to District 1 and the whole council gave its blessing because it was the right thing to do,” Manzie said.
With more than $65 million in surplus, Richardson argued before the final vote the city has enough money to pay for all the projects councilors are requesting and his project being left out is intentional.
“It’s a deliberate act that District 1 is being left out,” he said. “I want the citizens of District 1 to know you are being slighted. District 1 is being slighted. This budget is for One Mobile, not all Mobile.”
In addition to the money for Ladd, the budget includes across-the-board, 2.5 percent raises for city employees and a $12 million increase in capital improvements, including improvements to the Trimmier Park football stadium, the addition of a Mims Park combination field and an amphitheater at Langan Park.
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