MOBILE – The Mobile City Council delayed a vote on a resolution Tuesday that would allow Mayor Sandy Stimpson to authorize professional services contracts related to Bloomberg Philanthropies grant money without the prior consent of councilors.
City attorney Ricardo Woods said Bloomberg had requested the resolution in order to allow contracts to move more quickly through the process and remove outside political influence.
An affirmative vote for the measure would be a departure from the way professional service contracts are typically handled. Typically contracts are placed on the agenda for a council vote and are budgeted by law, council attorney Jim Rossler said, meaning the resolution would be illegal.
Woods argued that the ordinance in question referring to the approval of these contracts says “should” and not “shall,” meaning the council is “more than capable to do this by law.” Furthermore, Woods said, if the council doesn’t approve the resolution, Bloomberg has threatened to move control of the money from the city to a local non-profit.
Councilwoman Bess Rich said she didn’t think the council would slow down approval of the grant money, but added that it would be more open to have the council vote on each contract.
Councilman Joel Daves said councilors were concerned the resolution would create “subterranean accounts” for the administration, or future administrations that could be used without council approval.
Woods said the act of putting the resolution item on the agenda shows good faith. He added that this resolution wouldn’t change the law, but would only affect the grant money from Bloomberg. He said councilors could review the contracts as well.
In other business, councilors held over a vote on a $132,350 contract with Magic Ice, LLC for a temporary 50-foot-by-70-foot ice skating rink in Cooper Riverside Park through the holiday season. The contract would run from Nov. 14 to Jan. 12. and includes management of the facility and 300 pairs of skates, Senior Director of Community Affairs Shayla Beaco said.
She went on to say the rink would be real ice with a refrigeration system underneath. Use of the rink would cost between $8 and $12 per person, with reductions for children, Beaco said.
Based on comparisons from other cities, Beaco said it’s a very popular amenity and could be revenue neutral, or even possibly make a profit. The contract does not include the cost of utilities, although the city has been in talks with private companies interested in helping to defray some of the contract cost through sponsorships. She said there have been no finalized agreements.
Rich suggested delaying a vote until an agreement of that nature was secured.
Stimpson has said the skating rink would replace the city’s Christmas parade, which was cancelled last year.
During a public hearing on Stimpson’s proposed 2016 budget, Greg Reynolds, chairman of the Mobile History Museum Board, asked councilors to add $148,267 to a performance contract that would allow the board to take over management of the city’s history museum. The contract, with the added money, would put the museum at level funding to last year’s budget when it operated as a city department.
“We’re not asking for the moon,” Reynolds said. “We’re asking for a fair shake.”