The Mobile City Council took no action on a set of amendments to the city’s litter ordinance, which hasn’t been enforced since December.
Councilman John Williams withheld unanimous consent on the agenda items that would change a few provisions of the ordinance passed last summer. Any councilor can withhold consent for discussion or a vote on any item that’s appearing on the body’s agenda for the first time. The items were automatically held over until next week’s meeting.
The amendments would also pull back requirements relating to dumpsters. Instead of requiring enclosures around all dumpsters in the city, business owners would be allowed to construct a wooden or brick enclosure, or simply affix a dumpster with a gravity lock.
Williams said he believes that portion of the law should be further amended to allow for warnings instead of fines for notices of noncompliance.
“I’m supportive of the document, except for the dumpster (requirements),” he said. “If you’re not violating the law, you should not be subjected to additional costs.”
An amendment would also require dumpsters be labeled with the name and contact information of the person responsible for it.
Additionally, the administration has made some internal improvements to the property maintenance department. David Daughenbaugh was promoted from urban development to the new position of deputy director of property maintenance. Daughenbaugh will oversee enforcement of the ordinance and handle communication with property owners. Daughenbaugh will be paid $55,901.
The department is also now fully staffed with 14 property maintenance enforcement officers, responsible for enforcement of the litter ordinance and other duties related to the city’s 311 line, Director of Urban Development Laura Clarke said. The officers are each paid between the starting rate of $29,412 and $47,028, which accounts for experience and years of service, she said.
Another big change in the ordinance alters a provision related to temporary signs, moving it under the city’s sign ordinance. The new provision would allow temporary signs, like the ones advertising opening houses, only on weekends from 4 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday.
A group of real estate agents with the Mobile Area Association of Realtors were on hand at the meeting to show support for the new sign provision. Agent Robbie Lynn Irvine told councilors that real estate agents are not the problem.
“I think what we’ve got and what the mayor is proposing is what we’ve been doing,” she said. “Realtors have adhered to the ordinance.”
She and Roberts Brothers President Daniel Dennis told councilors other advertisers using temporary signs are the problem.
“I don’t think anybody would say [open house signs are] part of the problem,” Dennis said. “We have an obligation to get those signs out of yards and if we don’t, we have to deal with the consequences.”
Williams said he thinks it’ll take more than a law to fix the problem of litter in the city.
“I believe that no law is going to fix our litter problem,” he said. “The problem will be fixed when we all take responsibility … I believe there is a balance we can find very, very quickly, but it comes down to enforcement. We know where our problems are. We need to go to those areas and fix our problem.”
The new amendments dealing with dumpster enclosures will be discussed during a 2 p.m. meeting of the council’s public service committee on Thursday May 7. The public safety committee will take up the issue of temporary signs at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Both meetings will be held in the council conference room on the ninth floor of Government Plaza.
The council briefly debated approving a $1 million contract with Hughes Plumbing and Utility Contractors for drainage pipe lining along Dauphin Street, west of Interstate 65; Spring Valley Drive East, Spring Valley Drive South, Heron Lakes Circle, Dalewood Drive to Three Mile Creek, Provident Lane and Dixon Lane.
Councilmen Fred Richardson, C.J. Small and Levon Manzie all questioned the fairness of appropriate the funds for work that would all take place west of I-65 when drainage issues plague residents they represent in the eastern half of the city.
City Engineer Nick Amberger told them he’d love to fix all the drainage issues at once, but it was important to fix those larger pipes to the west in order to make sure problems to the east didn’t get worse.
Amberger added that the more work would be required on pipes to the east because they were smaller and couldn’t simply be lined and would have to be rebuilt, in order to fix the problem.
Manzie said maybe the city could find a balance and work on one project west and then another to the east.
“If we always go for low-hanging fruit we won’t be able to fix the whole city,” he said. “We’re spending $1 million here and none is being spent on the people I represent.”
Councilman Joel Daves said millions of dollars were spent last year on Ann Street, which needed it, but he told fellow councilors he didn’t complain.
“I’m happy to spend money in every one of our districts,” he said.
Councilwoman Bess Rich asked the city to send along a list of drainage projects and how much was spent over the last 10 years. Council President Gina Gregory directed City Clerk Lisa Lambert to do that instead. Richardson and Daves then added that all capital projects be added to the list.
Richardson said he expected to see that the city has spent about “$1 billion” on the widening of streets and roads west of I-65, while only one street, Mobile Street, had been widened in his district, during his tenure on council.
The council approved the sale of the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center building to the city. The city will in turn enter into a 10-year lease with the science center to use the building.
The agreement gives the city a $15 million asset and allows the Exploreum more money in which to operate. The city had previously paid utilities on the building the science center owned, but that practice was stopped about 18 months ago, Exploreum board president David Trent said. The agreement would save the science center roughly $300,000 a year.
The city would once again take on that cost, but at a reduced rate. It is unclear how much the city expects to spend on utilities and maintenance on the building.
New municipal judges
The council appointed three new municipal judges and they were sworn-in during the meeting Tuesday. Carvine Adams was appointed as a full-time judge, while Karlos Finley and Bucky Thomas were appointed as part-time judges.