During their Thursday morning conference meeting, Mobile County commissioners discussed a $50,000 proposal to address a fresh batch of leaks at Mobile’s Government Plaza — a problem that has persisted for decades and has already cost the county millions of dollars.

The latest request was presented on the agenda as a fix for “water intrusion.” When Assistant County Engineer Brian Kegley was asked to clarify the problem, he said, “Mother Nature is getting into this building.”

Mobile County’s Government Plaza.

According to Kegley, the “leakage” is affecting the 10th, 5th and 3rd floors in the building, including areas that saw upgrades in a $1 million suite of renovations the county completed earlier this year.

Since the construction of the $73 million, 581,000 square foot building was completed in 1994, leaking has remained an issue. In 2012, the county awarded a $3.1 million contract to Team-Craft Roofing Inc. to address persistent leaks in the building’s atrium, though after delays in the project, another $235,000 was added via change orders.

Those repairs came with a 20-year guarantee from the contractor, and according to County Spokesperson Katherine Eddy, the agreement is holding up because the current “water intrusion” isn’t originating from the atrium or roof area.

“This is coming from the window curtain wall, which just means the wall of windows going down the side of the building,” Eddy added. “This is a professional services contract to develop the project and figure out what needs to be done to solve the problem.”

The county is considering awarding the $50,000 contract to The Architects Group, Inc., who would then submit plans to address the current leaks coming through some of the building’s windows. Commissioners are expected to make a decision on the architectural proposal as early as Dec. 28.

Newspaper error causes county bid rejection

Multiple bids for a county-funded sidewalk project on Clark Avenue will have to be thrown out and resubmitted due to a clerical error with legal advertisements run through Alabama Media Group and Al.com.

At least one commissioner strongly encouraged Assistant County Engineer Brian Kegley to look into other, locally-owned alternatives when publishing legal notices in the future.

“It was an error on the paper’s part. We sent the information and actually received confirmation back from them that it was advertising on certain days. But, they failed to do that,” Kegley told the commissioners. “We actually received good bids, too. We would have liked to have awarded them, but we’ve got to follow the bid law and have these advertised.”

In his 22-years working with the county, Kegley said the situation with the ads related to the Clark Avenue project was, to his knowledge, the first case of something like this happening.

However, the Press-Register — a Mobile-based, thrice-weekly print publication owned by AMG — ran into similar problems in 2015. Last February, Probate Judge Don Davis announced his court would no longer be using the Press-Register to handle legal notices due to what he described as repeated instances of legal ads and their billing being improperly handled.

Davis later reversed course, and legal ads from probate court have since resumed running the area’s oldest print publication.

While, Commission President Merceria Ludgood said it was “a little bit scary” that a paper’s error could have potentially put the county and its engineering department at odds with state bid law, her colleague, Commissioner Jerry Carl, took his critique of the situation a step further.

“We have some local papers here. Can we use them versus al.com? The Press-Register has been no ally of ours in helping with anything,” he added. “Can we put some money in some local pockets instead of sending it to Montgomery? I say we start using them and get away from al.com.”

Carl pointed out that Lagniappe, The Mobile Beacon and the Citronelle-based Call News are all able to run legal notices for private and government entities required by law to publish such announcements in papers of “general circulation.”

Because Lagniappe has always been free to its readers, the paper just recently got the approval to run legal advertisements — a matter clarified in an opinion from Attorney General Luther Strange’s office just last month.

Though no type of formal vote was taken, Carl and Ludgood seemed to agree on the idea of spreading out some of the county’s legal advertisements among the other three locally-owned papers when possible.

As Kegley pointed out, though, Alabama’s bid law requires larger public projects worth more than $500,000 to be advertised around the entire state at least once. In those situations, Kegley said the county “would end up having to use al.com” anyway because of its statewide reach through publications in Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery.

“That I understand,” Carl replied, “But, we could spread the other stuff around … surely.”

County considers building basketball court in city park

Also on Thursday, commissioners briefly discussed using $50,000 of the county’s capital improvement funding to construct a basketball court at Herndon Park — often referred to as Sage Park — at the corner of Sage Avenue and Dauphin Street in Mobile.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Councilman John Williams and other officials kick off the groundbreaking of new Herndon Park soccer fields.

If approved, the court would be constructed through a joint contract with the city of Mobile, which owns the park. However, in the past, the county purchased a roughly 5 percent interest in Herndon Park — allowing municipal bond revenue to be used for improvements that government entities are normally limited to using on improvements to their own assets.

However, this is far from a new practice in Mobile County. It’s fairly routine for commissioners to enter into agreements with smaller municipalities in the county as well as the boards of public school systems. As a result of the county securing a small interest in those properties, the commission has been able to provide financial assistance to a significant number of public projects in the past.

Anticipating future contributions toward improvements at the Mount Vernon Senior Center, commissioners will vote on taking a similar 5 percent interest in that property at their next meeting, which scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 28.