After almost a year in limbo, Ladd-Peebles Stadium leadership will soon be able to move forward with plans for a walking trail and other improvements.
Despite receiving a $950,000 performance contract in the council-approved 2019 fiscal year budget, the city has only given the stadium board $200,000 of that to this point. Instead of honoring the performance contract, city officials are now asking councilors to approve a $750,000 capital improvement line item set aside for the stadium, which would preserve the funds into the forthcoming fiscal year.
“This would preserve the funds rather than have them expire at the end of the fiscal year,” Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch said. “If you do nothing, this allocation expires.”
Among other issues with the request, Councilwoman Bess Rich asked why it had taken so long for the city to honor the allocation approved last year.
“Is there a reason for the wait?” Rich asked. “The council thought this money had already been allocated.”
Wesch said the city believes the stadium board’s bylaws prevent it from undertaking capital projects on its own. In addition to this, the Ladd board is not subject to state bid laws.
“The board has done capital projects for the city in the past,” Rich said.
This is true, Ladd board Chairwoman Ann Davis confirmed. The Stimpson administration has previously allowed the board to execute a contract for elevators at the stadium, she said.
“We paid for it and they paid us back,” Davis said of the city. “That proves right there that we can enter into contracts and do capital work.”
The city’s delay in honoring the Ladd performance contract is mentioned in a countersuit the council has filed against Mayor Sandy Stimpson in the ongoing legal battle over which branch of government has the authority to hire, fire and enter into contracts, as Rich pointed out in the pre-conference meeting.
“I’m a little concerned because we have a court case,” she said. “I don’t know if we can even talk about that.”
The lawsuit began when councilors entered into a contract with media specialist Marion Steinfels against Stimpson’s wishes. Steinfels has not been paid for her work since she was rehired by councilors at the beginning of the year.
Since the city is apparently ready to honor the Ladd contract with its most current move, Councilman Fred Richardson asked Wesch if the administration would begin paying Steinfels during the next fiscal year as well. Wesch said “no.”
In addition to the transfer, the council could vote on an $8,000 contract with Watkins Acy Strunk Design for design of a walking trail around the stadium. The additional money allocated in the agenda item would go toward its construction, as well as for a list of other improvements highlighted by the stadium management group.
In other business, Councilman C.J. Small asked Stimpson if there was anything the council could do to help allocate more resources to public safety after he spent his weekend on the phone with concerned constituents, who he said were now too scared to leave their homes in District 3.
Small asked for public safety roadblocks to be instituted in his district and told Stimpson he would support whatever needed to be done to recruit more officers to the Mobile Police Department (MPD).
Richardson questioned the MPD’s use of roadblocks at an apartment building in West Mobile, while continuing to ignore Small’s district on the east side of Interstate 65.
“The Supreme Court has ruled it’s legal for cities to set up public safety checkpoints and he’s asked for this,” Richardson said. “I don’t know what it will take. I don’t know why we can set them up west of I-65 and not east.”
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