The Mobile City Council reappointed two members of the board that oversees operations at the Chastang Landfill — the same board that was hit in late January with an $8.1-million judgment for breach of contract.
Ray Richardson and Pete Riehm were nominated for reappointment to five-year terms by Councilmen Levon Manzie and John Williams, respectively.
In January, a U.S. District Court jury awarded $8.1 million to Waste Management, the company that manages the Chastang Landfill, from the SWA for breach of a contract originally entered into in 1993.
During a week-long trial, attorneys for WM argued the company hadn’t been allowed to raise the tipping fee it charges the city from the rate set when the contract was originally entered into in 1993. Attorneys also argued that the company, via the contract, should have been reimbursed for certain improvements made to the landfill, as well.
Attorneys for the SWA, which included former City Attorney Larry Wettermark and current Council Attorney Jim Rossler, argued the company never provided the board with adequate information to justify an increase in the tipping fee, or reimbursement for improvements. Ultimately, the seven-member jury sided with Waste Management.
Both Williams and Manzie said they considered the lawsuit award before choosing to make the reappointments.
Williams said Riehm is “very familiar” with the ongoing legal process and was the best candidate to represent the district and see it through another term. He added that he was not going to insert himself into the issue.
Manzie said he initially had some concerns over the verdict, but chose Ray Richardson because of her qualifications in the environmental engineering department with the city.
Councilman C.J. Small appointed newcomer Wesley Young to fill the unexpired term of Horace Christian, whose term is set to expire July 16. Small said he chose Young because he was a retired Public Works employee who would have the knowledge needed to serve on the board.
“I thought he’d be the best representative for District 3,” Small said.
In addition, Council President Gina Gregory told councilors she would have an appointment coming up for the SWA. That appointment would be made to replace SWA member Tommy Tyrrell, who recently passed away.
Lawrence Carroll is listed as the District 1 represented to the SWA, his term expires July 16. Tim Morris is listed at the District 5 representative, his term expires July 15. Les Barnett is listed as the District 6 representative, his term expires March 22 of next year.
Hank Aaron Stadium improvements
By a 6-1 vote, the council approved a $22,090 contract with Vision Integration Services for improvements to the Hank Aaron Stadium audio system.
During a pre-conference meeting, Councilwoman Bess Rich asked the administration if they had reached a new contract agreement with the Mobile BayBears, who use the stadium, during the Southern League season. Rich was the lone dissenting vote on the agenda item.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the city would no longer be pursuing a new contract with the Baybears, who owe the city back rent.
The plan, Cooper said, would be to make sure the city is in compliance with their aspects of the contract to make sure they are on sound legal footing, before forcing the baseball team to pay rent. The BayBears are currently refusing to pay rent, Cooper said, and have not been current on rent since September of 2013.
“We can’t enforce the contract yet,” he said.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods said the city would have to make sure the field is ready for the start of the season and perform maintenance before they could come to the BayBears and ask for rent.
During the meeting, Rich said she could not support giving more money that would benefit the organization that owes the city rent money. Councilman Levon Manzie said the stadium belongs to the city and the audio system upgrades would benefit more than just the BayBears.
Rich asked the administration for an accounting of the tax revenue the city brings in from stadium concessions.
Oil storage tank permits
The council again pushed back the moratorium on any new oil storage tank applications and extended the time limit for a new ordinance governing the building of such tanks until Sept. 30.
The Planning Commission has an oil storage tank subcommittee meeting scheduled for Thursday, following its regular meeting at 2 p.m. in the Government Plaza auditorium. While the meeting is open to the public, it is not a public hearing and members of the crowd won’t be asked to speak.
Manzie, who represents District 2 on the council and is a member of the Planning Commission said Tuesday he hopes only one more meeting of the subcommittee will be scheduled, following the meeting this week. He said the next step would be to present it to the entire commission and then to the council.
“I want to see it get resolved and I know residents want to see it resolved,” he said.
In other business
Carriage Hills subdivision resident Lella Lowe spoke to councilors at the meeting over the neighborhood’s concern about traffic congestion once a Zaxby’s opens up across from the entrance to the community on Royal Carriage Drive. Lowe asked the city to look into solutions because neighbors fear business from the fast food chain could result in more accidents on Cottage Hill Road, near the intersection with Hillcrest.
Lowe even gave suggestions, including concrete dividers, a traffic signal or a reconfiguration of the community’s entrance. Traffic Engineer Jennifer White said the city could redesign the entrance to the neighborhood, if traffic becomes a problem. She also suggested possibly increasing enforcement of the speed limit, along Cottage Hill.
The council voted to lay over a vote on an ordinance that would regulate the distribution of handbills and advertising circulars for three weeks. The ordinance will be discussed in a Public Service Committee meeting Tuesday, March 31 at 1:30 p.m.
The ordinance was initially held over to allow Rossler and attorneys for the Press-Register to come to a consensus on the issue.
“Let me sum it up,” Rossler told councilors. “I don’t see any resolution between us.”
The council also appointed Pat Tyrrell to finish out her husband’s unfinished term, as a member of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System board.