After getting its second look an extensive draft capital improvements plan (CIP), the finance committee of the Mobile City Council voted to recommend the plan in principle with the understanding that some details could still change.
It was only two months after the Council approved a three-year extension of a 20 percent “penny” sales tax increase that the body also elected to evenly distribute the revenue it generates among each of the seven council districts.
Now, the proposed three-year plan looks to allocate an estimated $21 million in capital funding, but it’s addressing a backlog of more than $250 million of needed projects that have fell by the wayside as money was shifted to other accounts over the years.
The plan essentially gives $9 million to each district over the life of the extended sales tax revenue. However, the exact dollar figure may vary from district to district annually because of costs associated with individual projects each year.
During their second meeting, the finance committee — joined by the remainder of the city council – got its first look at a breakdown of the proposed projects for 2016. In all, there are 180 projects proposed for funding in the plan though each of those will require individual authorization by the council down the road.
Some of the highlights from each district’s 2016 draft plan can be seen in the slideshow below:
The recommendation from the finance committee will put the plan on the council’s Aug. 4 agenda, but there’s still a hurdle jump with regard to projects that will be submitted for multi-district or citywide funding.Councilman Levon Manzie — whose district includes several tourist destinations like the Gulfquest Maritime Museum, Gulf Coast Exploreum, Ladd Peebles Stadium and Fort Conde — said some of the projects slated at sites like those should be funded with money from each council district as opposed to just the district they fall in.
“Those are true multi-district projects, because citizens from all across the city and from out of town visit those areas,” Manzie said. “We shouldn’t have to take money that could be going to road and sidewalk improvements from District 2 in order to replace the chiller at Fort Conde or update something at Ladd Stadium, when people from across the community utilize these spaces.”
Councilman John Williams was very quick to suggest that type of thinking could unravel the entire process of allocating the capital funds over the next three years.
“We can make these kinds of arguments about any expenditure,” Williams said. “We’ve got to take ownership, and to address the city’s needs overall. Some of those projects are going to fall in your district and some are going to fall in mine.”
Councilman Joel Daves agreed, adding that a traffic improvement project along Airport Boulevard in his district could be shared by the other districts because of the widespread use of the road.
“I didn’t have one person write me and say they wanted a ‘closed-loop system on Airport Boulevard from Sage Avenue to Mcgregor,’ but it’s the right thing to do for the city,” Daves said.
Councilwoman Bess Rich also made a point to remind Manzie that funding the construction and maintenance “big ticket” items in the past has taken from other districts, including hers. She made the suggestion that citywide spending on those types of projects is what left the city with inadequate funding to address the $250 million of improvements the council is having to focus on now.
Manzie said he wasn’t concerned with the past because there was “nothing he could do about it.”Elaborating, Manzie suggested the current projects slated for multi-district funding don’t address the “needs of the city” but rather the “wants” of a few.
In the current form of the draft, about $1.2 million in projects is planned with multi-district funding, which would take away about $178,000 from each district respectively, if it were given the council’s final approval.
Those projects include new park signage at various municipal parks, funding to assist in the launch of the Greenway Initiative and an undisclosed allocation to create more city-owned soccer fields.Program Manager John Guilfoyle, with Hawksley Consulting, explained that there was still time to iron out the details of multi-district spending — a point that Daves added to in order to move the committee’s vote along Tuesday afternoon.
“What we are handling here is a framework that will be swallowed over time as we move forward…” Daves said. “The important thing is to get the ball rolling so we can start spending this money.”
The council is also waiting for clarification from Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration about what type of projects the city’s $4.7 million settlement with BP could be used for. A few times, some of the projects listed in the CIP program were suggested to be a good fit for potential BP funding.
Despite the outlying issues, the council is expected to vote on the three-year process and the current draft list of 2016 CIP projects during its Aug. 4 meeting.