Representatives for a local branch of In God We Trust America wants the city’s help to have the nation’s motto displayed in the Government Plaza auditorium.
Gulf Shores resident John Butler and Mobile resident Pete Riehm asked the council to place a resolution on the agenda to allow the display to be placed in a prominent place.
Council President Gina Gregory explained that such a decision wasn’t for the council to make and it would have to be taken up with the Mobile County Commission. Butler said he and Riehm planned to meet with the commission at a later time.
Councilor John Williams said he supported the move and would draft a letter of support that other councilors could join in signing. He said he would send it to the commission next week.
“I ask each of my colleagues to sign it and show support for this,” Williams said.
Councilor Fred Richardson said he didn’t believe anyone on the council was against the measure calling all of his colleagues “believers.” However, he reiterated that the council was limited in what it could do.
“We don’t have the authority on this,” Richardson said. “The county can nail all this at one time. You can certainly get it done easily.”
Earlier in the day, during a pre-conference meeting, Richardson brought up concerns about complaints from the public over separation of church and state, if the city came out in support of the measure. Williams said misunderstanding of the separation of church and state could prevent the council from unanimous agreement on the issue.
Butler has had success with his effort in Baldwin County, with six municipalities supporting the move. Those municipalities are smaller in nature, with Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Elberta, Foley, Robertsdale and Silverhill approving it. Butler has spoken with the Eastern Shore cities of Daphne and Fairhope, but each has yet to act, he said.
Butler said a plaque, or small plastic letters displaying the motto could cost as little as $200. He said he was pleased with the reaction from the city.
In other business, the city re-allocated $86,221 from the parks capital fund to a capital fund for the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center. The money would be used for drainage repairs to some of the courts and more shade structure at the center, said Brad Christensen, director of architectural engineering.
Councilor Bess Rich asked why the tennis center projects were prioritized over other parks projects. Councilor C.J. Small asked how much money the center brings in.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper told councilors the center brings in $45 million to $51 million a year, which equates to $2 million in tax revenue for the city.
“It behooves us to support this,” Williams said.
Councilor Lavon Manzie said it’s important to support the city’s revenue generators, but he reminded council to not forget about other parks, which are used by residents.
Gregory told councilors the two projects in question were part of a larger project at first, but the tennis center didn’t have enough man hours to finish it at once and now they are forced to come back on a regular basis to get approval to finish it.
Richardson asked if the council could take a ride over to the tennis center to “lay our eyeballs on what they’ve done.”
“We’ve voted on all these changes and I don’t know if they’re being done,” he said.
Councilor Joel Daves suggested the city stop taking from capital funds to help out the general fund. He said the city has already taken $20 million from capital funds this fiscal year as a way to shore up the general fund.
“We spend a lot of time each week talking about capital projects,” he said. “The answer to all of this is stop robbing capital funds to shore up the general fund.”