Mayor Sandy Stimpson stared at the big yellow sign hanging from Wimpee’s Floor Center decrying the city’s lack of progress on a months-long drainage project on Florida Street. He didn’t disagree.
“Look, I don’t blame Mr. Wimpee for putting that up there because it has hurt his business,” Stimpson said while standing on an unpaved Florida Street. “There is nobody in any of these businesses that are not upset with the timeline.”
The normally bustling thoroughfare between Dauphin Street and Old Shell Road has been closed periodically and without pavement for months while crews work to completely rebuild the street, including drainage. Owners of businesses along the stretch have expressed frustration over the project. On Monday, July 15, Stimpson addressed the issues during a press conference at the site.
Stimpson told members of the press that while the project is on time from an engineer’s perspective, there is still a lot to learn from and do better in the future, especially with more projects forthcoming.
“This is not pushing the contractor under the bus, so to speak, or our engineers, it’s just that leadership from the mayor’s office, the administration, we have got to come up with, working with them, working with others to figure out how we do better so you don’t see something like that,” he said. “Because we’ve got St. Louis Street coming up, you’ve got McGregor Avenue coming up … Broad Street, and so what is it that we can do that will end up with a better result?”
One idea Stimpson floated was giving bonuses to a contractor who can manage to finish a project early rather than just on time.
“So, is there a way for us to work with the City Council to maybe incentivize somebody to get through quicker?” Stimpson asked. “I think there is, but it’s going to take maybe some ordinances. There’s not a single business owner here that would not buy into paying a bonus if they could’ve finished this street two months ago.”
Stimpson also suggested possibly exploring underneath the roadway next time, instead of just “digging up the road and finding what is there.”
Councilman Fred Richardson, who represents the area on the Mobile City Council, said he stands with the business owners “100 percent” on the frustration over the work timeline. While he was invited to Stimpson’s press event, he said he decided not to go due to the late notice.
Richardson has already complained about the contractor apparently not working during the day. He told Lagniappe he recorded the lack of activity on consecutive days a few weeks ago.
Stimpson also hopes a new public works director can provide some leadership when it comes to projects like this in the future. He said the administration is roughly a week to 10 days from announcing its selection for the position.
Stimpson said he has a candidate in mind and that the position would oversee five city departments, including public services, parks and recreation, engineering, architectural engineering and real estate and major projects.
Once the candidate is announced, he will have to be approved by a vote of five members of the Mobile City Council.
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