Midtown residents complained Tuesday evening about odor and emissions from a roofing shingle manufacturer and asked the Mobile City Council to take action.

South Lafayette Street resident Eleanor Tar Horst told councilors the GAF manufacturing facility near the intersection of Florida and Emogene streets is a major contributor to eye and lung irritation for nearby residents. She also complained about the odor.

“It’s so overpowering they have to stay indoors,” she said. “The emissions could have a negative impact on health … and tourism.”

In a emailed statement Thursday morning, a GAF spokesperson wrote that the company takes the concerns seriously and would look into them.

“GAF has been a member of the Mobile, Alabama community for more than 90 years, and we take all community member concerns seriously,” the statement read. “We are committed to investigating the concerns that were raised by our fellow community members.”

Crenshaw Street resident Perry Berens complained about finding soot on his home he claimed came from the facility.

“The only logical conclusion is it’s from GAF,” Berens said, adding that the health of residents should be considered a public safety issue. “It should be looked at more than passing the buck. It should be a group issue to help us get this resolved.”

Council President Gina Gregory told the residents the board had no authority over the issue of air quality and that it would have to be handled by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Councilman Fred Richardson, whose district includes GAF, told residents ADEM checked the air quality in 2015 in reference to GAF and found no issues.

“ADEM is a state agency,” Richardson said. “You have elected leaders at the state level. I would put them to work.

“We’re the target,” he added. “ … We’re not the sheriff. We have no control.”

As long as GAF is not violating any laws, Richardson said, there’s nothing the council can do about it.

Later in the meeting, Richardson said he did feel for the residents near GAF and would invite officials from ADEM, the Mobile County Health Department and Mobile County Commissioners to a public meeting to further discuss the issue.

“We’ll put everybody in a room and see what we can come up with,” Richardson said.

In other business, the council easily approved former police Chief James Barber as the city’s new Executive Director of Public Safety, officially replacing Richard Landolt, who resigned on Friday. The council also unanimously approved promoting Assistant Chief Lawrence Battiste to replace Barber at the helm of the MPD.

Following the meeting, Barber said his top priority in his new capacity would be to find a permanent chief of the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. However, he said he has made no recommendations to Mayor Sandy Stimpson on that front, as it’s too early.

Matt Waltman, vice president of the Mobile Firefighters Association, asked councilors to consider holding a future public safety committee meeting to discuss staffing and other issues within the MFRD.
Stimpson mentioned budget concerns in a March 20 letter to firefighters. Citing the letter, Waltman said he was happy to see Stimpson re-commitment to the MFRD. He also asked Barber to reach out to MFRD leadership to discuss issues.

Gregory said the council would schedule a committee meeting to further discuss the issues.

The council also approved a $2.7 million contract for construction of the new Crichton Fire Station. With the approval of the contract, Richardson announced that the plans would include a meeting room for area civic groups — something that had previously been a point of contention between Richardson and Stimpson.