Though it would be a year later than expected, Mobile County officials are hoping to have a construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their proposed soccer and aquatic complex by March.
That’s according to Environmental Services Director Bill Melton, who said his department wrapped up a $55,000 Phase II cultural resources analysis last week.
The study didn’t result in any startling discoveries, but Melton said it has provided a glimpse of the Breezy Pine Dairy Farm which operated on the site in the late 1940s and 1950s — predating interstates 10 and 65, which currently bisect the property.
“We have found some remnants of an old dairy farm, but nothing really remarkable,” Melton said. “It is the first time a dairy farm has been researched and written [about] in this area from the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, which is what precipitated the need to do the survey in the first place.”The survey requirement arose in October when the Corps sent word to the Mobile County Commission that further examination would be required after 60-year-old milk bottles were discovered on the property.
However, it was the county that conducted the study and absorbed the cost, making it the ninth study related to the project. Officials are hopeful it will be the last.
Over the past three months, the environmental department worked to vet the “historical significance” of the property, which Melton believes is wanting. Speaking with reporters on Jan. 25, he said no “remarkable archeological discoveries” were made at the site.
“[Our] report basically says there is no need for further studies or actions on this site within the context of archeology,” Melton said. “We hope the Corps finds the report satisfactory and submits it to the Alabama Historical Commission for their comments, after which we hope to see a permit issued.”
If the county’s study is found satisfactory, Melton said the historical commission would only be adding comments, and the Corps would made the final determination of whether the site could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
After Monday’s County Commission meeting, Melton said “it ought to go very well,” adding the Corps worked “very closely” with the county and shouldn’t be surprised by any of the findings.
Even if those 60-year-old milk bottles from the Breezy Pine Dairy prove worthy of historic distinction, Melton said, the county could still move forward with the project.
“I don’t anticipate any further work to come out of this report, but there has been some discussion on what type of mitigation we would do in the event the site was eligible for the National Register,” Melton said. “There certainly could be a recommendation for some type of recognition of the dairy farm that existed — probably through signage or that type of thing.”
County hires radio consultant
The Mobile County Commission has agreed to hire a consultant after getting word that a $770,000 refund from a completed communications project might be salvageable after all.
In the midst of a changing dynamic between the county and the Mobile County Communications District, commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 25 to pay Televate up to $15,000 while the two entities resolve how to spend those funds.
The refund comes from a $7 million homeland security grant split between Mobile and Baldwin counties in 2011 aimed at improving communication between first responders on both sides of the bay.
Though the grant was received by the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency, the Commission agreed to use its own funds to complete a $3.6 million “interoperable communications” project.
After entering into an intergovernmental agreement, the County Commission paid for the project, and the EMA then reimbursed the Commission using those grant funds. Per the same agreement, the MCCD also agreed to contribute more than $222,398.
The project was awarded to Harris Corporation in 2011, but after “certain radio enhancements” weren’t allowed under the original grant specifications, Harris issued a $770,000 refund to the county in 2015. Over the last few months, the parties involved have been trying to figure how to spend the refund in a manner agreeable to all parties.
At last week’s working session, Mobile County attorney Jay Ross told commissioners Televate could help with the technical side of those discussions.
“I think we could use an expert to help us go through the different types of projects it could be used for, whether that be interoperability with Baldwin County or a better system for public works for us,” Ross said. “They’ll give us some options we could use in conjunction with [MCCD] to reapportion and reuse those funds.”
Though Ross said MCCD had been involved in the discussions, Commission President Jerry Carl raised some concerns with using the funding without the MCCD board’s approval.
“It’s not that I don’t want the money, but I think that 911 was expecting it,” Carl said.
In December, Lagniappe reported the MCCD had discussions during its own meetings about securing the funding. In acknowledgment, Ross said his goal was to ensure they were part of any decision made on how to use the funding.
According Ross, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency originally awarded the grant via federal homeland security funding, and has already agreed to meet with representatives from the county and the MCCD.
Despite Carl’s concerns during the working session, he ultimately voted with commissioners Connie Hudson and Merceria Ludgood to bring Televate in to help with those discussions. In short, the Commission agreed that despite the other entities’ involvement, the funding was “ultimately the county’s responsibility.”
In addition to this specific issue, Ross said Televate could also prove helpful as the county and the MCCD work to draft written agreements about “who is supposed to do what for the long haul” — something that’s caused issues recently due to the assets and responsibilities the entities share.
“In an ideal world, our goals and 911’s goals should be consistent. So, I don’t see any reason for the give and take,” Ludgood said. “We just have to all realize that our goals are shared.”