Topping the July 30 Mobile City Council meeting was an item allocating $4,386,000 to capital improvements throughout the city that range from repairing a heavily used road to creating a skate park in the city. The councilors also officially banded together against a crude oil pipeline going through the county’s water supply and set on a path to improve another road.
The $4,386,000, which comes from state money generated by interest from the Alabama Trust Fund, will in large part go toward improving Zeigler Boulevard from Athey Road to Cody Road. The $2.2 million used on Zeigler will not only repave the surface, but also includes adding sidewalks.
City Council President Reggie Copeland lauded the project as one that will help ease the traffic in the surrounding area.
“Improvements to Zeigler will help the traffic on Airport and other streets in the area,” he said. “It’s a lot of money, but it will make a difference.”
The next costly item in the list of projects is for the building of a skate park at Public Safety Memorial Park. The 8,661-square-foot skate park will cost $450,000 and feature a six-foot-deep bowl, which Mayor Sam Jones has said will be the only one within an hour-and-half radius of Mobile.
The park will also have grind ledges, banks, platforms, ledges and stairs with a rail and hubba ledge, which is a tall, wide ledge around stairs.
The skate park caused some concern for one councilor. District 6 Councilwoman Bess Rich has argued that since the city began the process of creating a skate park, the skaters pushing for the park should have a vested interest like those who raised funds, constructed and have maintained the dog park in her district.
“This is a very similar situation with the dog park and skate park. It is a special interest group wanting an area in an existing park,” she said. “The dog park supporters had to jump through a number of hoops before they were able to get a dedicated park. I would just say the city’s process should be for everyone … not just one group.”
Since Jones was out of town to serve on the state Judicial Inquiry Commission, city Chief of Staff Al Stokes spoke for the administration.
He told Rich the park was for anyone not just those with dogs, but that the group of skaters are forming a 501(c)3 and looking at maintaining the park.
Rich said she supported the park and the other projects covered by the $4.386 million, but she would vote against the matter. Stokes lightened the mood a bit by playfully suggesting the councilwoman could try the park out once it was completed.
The rest of $4,386,000 will go to the following projects:
$390,225 for debt service for the Mobile Regional Senior Community Center
$150,000 for public building maintenance
$150,000 for mechanical maintenance
$300,000 for building and grounds allowance for citywide repairs
$445,775 for citywide roof repairs, which includes repairing a fire station roof
$300,000 as reserve for contingencies
Stokes explained the $300,000 would be for repairs for city buildings damaged by unforeseen events.
“When the Christmas tornadoes damaged the Joe Jefferson Playhouse, money was used from this fund to repair the damage,” he said. “This is what the $300,000 is for.”
Part of the money in the $4,386,000 for capital improvements will also go to making existing soccer fields better in parks like Sage, which is on Dauphin Street at Sage Avenue.
Rich wasn’t the only councilor upset with the list of projects.
District 1 Councilman Fred Richardson and District 3 Councilman CJ Small noted their districts were overlooked.
“I look at this list and I see Districts 5, 6 and 7. There’s not anything going to the other districts,” he said. “You have $3 million going to three districts alone and not a dime spend in District 1.
“I’m going to support this, but when there is an issue in District 1, and there will be, I don’t want to hear any whining, wailing and moaning. I want your support.”
Small said the $450,000 for the skate park, which he supported, is a lot to give for a new park when existing parks in his district need a fraction of that for repairs.
Copeland also took issue with something left off the list. He said he would have liked to see some money going toward building a soccer facility capable of hosting tournaments.
Rich notified the council that the Mobile County Commission is looking at putting such a soccer facility near Hank Aaron Stadium, which will also be the site of a 600,000-square-foot shopping center in 2015.
The council voted unanimously to improve other roads — Museum Drive and Drury Lane.
The $317,0502.94 will largely go to repairing Museum Drive, according to city engineer Nick Amberger. The funds are coming from the sales tax increase revenue that was marked for capital improvements.
“The vast majority of the money will repair the bridge Museum Drive by the curve on the lake, which is essentially eating away that portion of the road,” he said. “We’ll be resurfacing and cleaning up the area.”
The council also officially joined Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS), Mobile County and countless residents to stand together against the construction of the crude oil pipeline within the watershed of Big Creek Lake. The pipeline would move oil from the Mobile River all the way to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula and has encountered a great deal of opposition in the past couple of months.
Many of the councilors were concerned about who exactly is the person or entity that would be able to move or stop construction of the pipeline. Council attorney Jim Rossler advised the council that creating a resolution against the pipeline would be the best thing for the city.
“Short of going out and standing in front of the bulldozers, this is what you do to oppose it,” he said. “This is a more targeted approach.”
Richardson did have another idea, which was for the city to annex Big Creek Lake.
“Annex it. Annex Big Creek Lake,” he said. “Then they can’t touch it.”
At first the other councilors laughed, but Councilman William Carroll suggested the idea be looked into.
“We all laughed when he came up with the MoonPie idea. Maybe we should listen to him,” he said.
Under the Code of Alabama, “the council or governing body of the city may pass a resolution to the effect that the public health or public good requires that certain territory (described in the resolution) shall be brought within the limits of the city.”
The idea was not discussed further, but Richardson said the city should look into annexation.
Rich noted it might be an easy solution since MAWSS owns much of the property that is needed to annex and the city limits are already very close Big Creek Lake.