A resident questioned the transparency of a deal between the Mobile History Museum Board and Activation Management for the lease of Fort Conde during Thursday’s Mobile City Council meeting.
Ronald Hunt, a volunteer at the city’s welcome center, told councilors at the regular meeting Thursday afternoon that he was uneasy about the contract that allows Activation Management to use Fort Conde as an interactive attraction called the Colonial Fort of Mobile because “no one has disclosed the terms” of the contract.
Those involved in the deal have been pretty tight-lipped about the terms. In a previous interview with Lagniappe, Activation Management Co-owner and Operator Scott Tindle said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss details of the contract. Contacted Thursday afternoon, Tindle said he would stick with his original comments. History Museum Board Chairman Greg Reynolds said Thursday he had nothing new to add to previous comments he made about the deal.
During a previous interview, Reynolds confirmed Activation Management would be responsible for utilities payments. When asked if the company would be paying rent on the building, Reynolds said “no comment.”
In a previous interview, Councilwoman Bess Rich said she believed the length of the contract was five years. Reynolds only said the contract was the same length as the city’s agreement with the board for management of the museum.
At a pre-conference meeting Thursday, councilors and Mayor Sandy Stimpson said they didn’t have copies of the agreement. Stimpson said Hunt would have to ask the museum board for a copy.
The opening of the new attraction is “weeks, not months” away, Tindle told Lagniappe, as of March 1.
The finished attraction will include a “shooting gallery” with pirates as targets. The attraction will include an escape room and a photo booth to allow visitors to put on colonial dress, Tindle said.
The fort will also include a café, where the menu will change quarterly based upon which country has control of the fort. Activation Management will charge admission, Tindle said, adding that Fort Conde charged admission when it first opened.
The admission will be $8 for adults and $5 for kids, in line with what was charged originally.
In other business, the council ratified by a vote of 6-1, a $107,000 purchase order for new seats at Hank Aaron Stadium. The vote ratified the purchase, instead of approving it, because the administration made the purchase without council consent.
Administration officials typically use purchase orders to buy items without the need for council consent if an item is “routine” and has already been budgeted. Councilwoman Bess Rich, who voted against the ratification, said the administration made a “misstep,” according to the opinion of the council’s legal counsel.
While Rich said she appreciated the administration for bringing the purchase order to a vote, she said she dissented because the Mobile BayBears, who lease the city-owned stadium, still owe the city some $200,000 in back rent. The club is currently paying its quarterly rent.
John Williams agreed with Rich about the back rent, but added that the stadium, located in his district, adds more to the quality of life than many other city-owned facilities.
The vote on the stadium item was held over last week. The council, last week, approved a contract for the installation of the seats. Lagniappe was incorrect in its reporting on the item last week.
The council also voted to officially change the name of Herndon Park at the intersection of Dauphin Street and Sage Avenue to Herndon-Sage Park. The park has been known colloquially as Sage Park, although it’s official name was Herndon.
Councilman Levon Manzie pushed back on criticism he was involved in the Mobile County Health Department’s crackdown on the crawfish boils at local bars. He set the record straight, after hearing accusations that he was a “perpetrator” in the shutdowns of crawfish boils in his council district.
“I have not ever, in the past or future, been anti-crawfish,” Manzie said during his announcements. “I’m working on a resolution to allow the crawfish … in District 2. “Let the crawfish crawl.”
Paul Wesch, interim chief of staff, said the administration is aligned with council on the crawfish boils.