Mayor Karin Wilson and the Fairhope City Council on Monday night proved they can play nicely together.
After months of increasingly contentious and divisive interaction that had citizens demanding the council and mayor figure out how to get along and work together, at least some of them agreed to try. On Saturday, Wilson invited City Council President Jack Burrell to lunch. Later, she had dinner with Councilman Jimmy Conyers and their respective spouses.
While Conyers said they talked of everything but politics over dinner, Burrell said he and Wilson talked politics among a number of other subjects. Both councilmen thanked Wilson for the invitation.
“We’ve got better things to do than have a lot of arguments,” Burrell said. A photo taken of the pair that appeared on Wilson’s Facebook page was not staged but simply taken by someone sitting near their table, he said.
But while the change in tone made for a smoother, faster meeting Monday, it was not without controversy.
The council approved $32,510.97 in payments to Walcott, Adams, Verneuille Architects for exterior repairs and maintenance on the Fairhope Public Library, although no paperwork could be found showing the work had been authorized.
The work took place during the administration former of Mayor Tim Kant. The city received bills for the work, but current city staffers could not find evidence of a contract or any other form of agreement between Kant, the city and the firm.
The council voted to pay the bills, with Burrell saying however the authorization was handled, it seemed clear the work was actually performed. The 10-year-old library building has been plagued with problems, including a leaking roof.
City Attorney Marion “Tut” Wynne announced the settlement of a lawsuit involving the city and Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp. over much more complex litigation concerning the Breland property. That case involves whether the city repeatedly and improperly prevented the property from being developed.
When AMIC, as the city’s insurer, refused to pay the costs of defending the city in the Breland case, Fairhope sued. The Travelers now handles the city’s insurance. Wynne said the settlement calls for AMIC and Travelers to each pay $63,315 to Fairhope. The Breland case is ongoing.
The council passed an ordinance governing when items can be reconsidered. For the last several weeks, Wilson has weekly resubmitted names of her two candidates for vacancies on the Airport Authority. The authority has recommended the reappointment of the two board members, but Wilson has insisted the decisions are hers.
The new ordinance prohibits an item that has been defeated from being considered again for 60 days. The full council can bring an item back sooner with a unanimous vote.
Discussion among Wilson and council members indicated they may be close to resolving the impasse by reappointing one of the current members and filling the second vacancy with one of Wilson’s nominees.