With less than 30 days until the electric MoonPie drops down the side of the RSA-Banktrust Building, Councilman Fred Richardson, who created the idea for the event, is not happy the fireworks contract has not been before the City Council.
Richardson made his concerns heard during the Dec. 3 council meeting, but members of the administration and the group tasked with coordinating the event, Events Mobile, said there is nothing to worry about.
“I met with Mayor Sandy Stimpson last week and he told me he would make sure there was money for the fireworks,” Richardson said. “It seems to me that he has reversed that decision and left town without telling me.”
Stimpson is in Hamburg, Germany to attend the Aviation Forum 2013, give a keynote speech and tour the Airbus plant. He is scheduled to return to Mobile Dec. 5.
Though Stimpson is out of the country, Chief of Staff Colby Cooper and City attorney Ricardo Woods spoke for the mayor.
“There may have been a misunderstanding with (Richardson’s) conversation with the mayor. He told Events Mobile that the city would contribute $7,500 toward the fireworks and they would make up the rest of the money,” Woods said. “We are going to have fireworks.”
Cooper said people with Events Mobile have no issue with making up the cost of the fireworks, which total $18,500. The city has contributed $107,500 to the group this fiscal year. New Events Mobile board president Carol Hunter said the group is still looking for the $11,000 to make the fireworks happen, but is confident it will.
Since the mayor’s office is contributing only $7,500, the issue does not have to come before the council.
Richardson was still not happy with the arrangement.
“The city should be paying for the fireworks,” he said. “We give $315,000 to the LPGA and I don’t know one person in District 1 that goes to it. The citizens don’t enjoy it, and it doesn’t fill up the hotels like the MoonPie.
“If the countdown starts on New Year’s Eve — 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — and then nothing but a whimper … no fireworks, then we will be embarrassed.”
Cooper and Woods assured Richardson there would be fireworks lighting the sky on Jan. 1, 2014.
This marks the second week in a row Richardson has publicly expressed displeasure with events surrounding the MoonPie event. Last week he took issue with Lagniappe’s attempts to accurately account for the way last year’s drop was funded, a question first asked a year ago. Richardson claimed a political cartoon about the MoonPie and stories about the Mobile Police Department’s Police Explorers trips were prompted by ethnic bias rather than valid attempts to inform the public as to how tax money was being spent.
Looking into last year’s event it was not clear where all public funding for the drop originated. In fact, Richardson has offered different amounts that he voted for to be spent on the event. The confusion may stem from the way Events Mobile and last year’s MoonPie drop were originally funded.
Hunter explained the numbers from the previous year’s event this week.
The City Council agreed to transfer the $72,345 to Events Mobile on Oct. 30, 2012, at its inception.
On that day, Barbara Drummond, former president of Events Mobile and former city spokeswoman, explained from where the money came.
“In the past six year or more years, Neighborhood and Community Services, which comes under Administrative Services and Community Affairs umbrella have secured minor amounts from various sponsors — some cash and others through sale of promotional merchandising (i.e.: a percentage of Chattanooga Bakery signature items sale and fees) to enhance city-sponsored events,” Drummond said on Oct. 30, 2012.
At that time Events Mobile was given a performance contract with the city and the $72,345 was transferred from so-called “500 accounts” previously used for community events. That money included $62,607.62 for “Kids’ Days activities, etc.” and $9,737.80 for administrative services.
That was the only money Drummond said would go to Events Mobile from the city.
However, on Oct. 2, the council voted to give $100,000 to the group through the Strategic Plan Fund Budget for 2012-2013. The strategic plan also funds things like college football bowl games, sporting events, police vehicles, homeless coalition and the Mobile Education Foundation, and the $100,000 appeared among a litany of expenditures approved by the council.
The City Council had not yet approved the formation of Events Mobile when the Strategic Plan Fund Budget was approved. That was done 28 days later on Oct. 30, 2012.
But even after its approval, members of Mayor Sam Jones’ administration repeatedly said only $72,345 was given to Events Mobile by the city for last year’s event.
However, according to Hunter, the group’s total revenue of roughly $176,000 came from the following:
The city – $100,000
Austal – $25,000
Mobile County Marketing Fund- $25,000
SMG – $5,000
Chattanooga Bakery – $5,000
International Shipholding – $5,000
Cooper Restaurants – $5,000
Mobile Auto PAC – $1,000
Vendors – $4,800
Last year’s event cost $207,151, she said, so the difference of roughly $31,000 was made up from the original $72,345, bringing the total spent from city money to around $131,000, not including fireworks or the cost of police.
This year Events Mobile was given $107,500 from the city and $25,000 from the Mobile County Marketing Fund, which comes from lodging tax. They are also hoping for support from previous sponsors.
Country singer Gretchen Wilson already announced on her website that she would be headlining the festivities. Hunter said there will be an opener and other local acts to perform Dec. 31.
Edited at 4:13 p.m. to remove statement that there will be a press conference Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. That statement was incorrectly made by Richardson during the council meeting, but organizers say there is no conference.