Days after one Mobile County commissioner pulled his proposed project in the western part of the county from consideration, the commission decided to move forward with plans for a proposed soccer complex near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 65.
By a 2-1 vote during the regular meeting Monday, commissioners approved a contract with Neel-Schafer to begin work on the site near Hank Aaron Stadium.
Approval means work can begin on the first three steps in the process of gathering information needed to negotiate a land purchase, including development of a master plan, survey work and environmental services.
Assistant County Engineer Bryan Kegley told commissioners that development of a master plan would cost the county $18,000. He said a survey of the land would run $9,300 and environmental services would cost $58,000.
“No, I can’t see us spending more money,” Commissioner Jerry Carl said. “It’s like Obamacare, and this is just a warm up.”
On Thursday, Carl told Commission President Connie Hudson and Commissioner Merceria Ludgood that he would refuse public money for a proposed 10-to-12-field soccer complex on McDonald Road in Irvington, and opt instead to find private investors to raise the $5.5 million he said would be needed to complete the project.
Carl and Hudson have been at odds over the placement of the proposed complex, as Hudson favors the site near the intersection of 10 and 65. Hudson’s plan calls for 10-11 fields on a 196-acre site, with 82 acres donated by a developer. Hudson said phase two of her vision would include an aquatic center.
Hudson told Carl at Monday’s meeting that no matter which site was chosen, the initial costs to develop it would remain the same. Carl disagreed, blaming Hudson’s choice of land, specifically that it’s located in a portion of Wragg Swamp, as the reason for elevated costs.
“It’s in a swamp,” he said. “It’s in a hole. It’s in a bad location.”
Hudson told Carl that experts have said permitting for the location won’t be difficult because the proposed complex only impacts eight acres of wetlands and mitigation would be done on site.
“Those eight acres are the last part of Wragg Swamp left,” Carl said. “Mitigation is an overused word nowadays.”
Carl and Hudson also disagree on the cost to develop the proposed complex. Hudson has said previously that cost estimates produced by Hargrove Engineering for the site near the interstates come in at around $12 million without the purchase of land.
Carl estimated Hudson’s plan would be around $20 million, when the widening of roads and other costs were factored in.
“You’ll never raise the money for this,” Carl told Hudson in a meeting on Thursday. “Twenty million is an off-the-wall number.”
Hudson disputed the $20 million price tag, but said the project would be funded through tax incentives, bond issues and hopefully with the help of investors.
“Until we have a site it’s hard to sell a product we don’t have yet,” Hudson said. “Worst case scenario we have to bond the whole thing.”
In other business, the commission:
Approved the renewal of an agreement with the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama in the amount of $50,000 for a summer youth program under a Community Development Block Grant
Approved a contract with producers of the documentary “Mobile in Black and White” in the amount of $5,000 from District 1 funds.
Approved a $5,000 contract for operational expenses for the Saraland Area Chamber of Commerce.
Approved an agreement with the University of South Alabama to pay all tax revenues from a two-cent tobacco tax for an additional five year period to assist in the cost of operating USA’s Mitchell Cancer Institute
Approved a $5,719 work order at James T. Strickland Youth Center for security enhancement
Approved a $3,700 agreement with Harlan Toole for a four week summer art program at Strickland Youth Center, to be paid from Detention Subsidy funds
Approved $6,330.87 for carpet replacement at Strickland Youth Center, to be paid from Detention Subsidy funds.