At the close of his first two weeks in office, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his staff sat down and talked about city business ranging from the MoonPie Drop money to lawsuits against the city and from BayFest to a meeting among five Alabama mayors.
Recently it was discovered that Events Mobile, Inc., an organization that coordinates city events such as the MoonPie Drop, spent more than $200,000 on the 2012 New Year’s Eve event. The organization also received $109,998.58 more in government support than originally thought. The city of Mobile provided the organization with $72,345.42 on Oct. 30, 2012. The Mobile County Marketing Fund, which gets its money from lodging taxes, gave Events Mobile, Inc. $25,000. However, the group was shown having received $207,345 in governmental support, according to an audit anonymously provided to Lagniappe last week.
Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the administration is still trying to find out how exactly the money was spent, but he did confirm the city paid the group more than $72,345.42. How much more money is being determined.
While there is not a line-by-line breakdown of expenses, the audit does reveal $85,600 was spent on performers, which included The Commodores, Wet Willie and Grayson Capps, among others. Another $57,471 went for stage production and $26,216 went to hospitality expenses. Cooper said what those hospitality expenses were exactly still are not determined.
Going forward, Stimpson said he feels the New Year’s Event can be a success without spending as much money.
“There are two opinions. One being that you can spend a lot of money to get a big name band for publicity and the other is you can spend a lot less and get a good name and still have a good event,” he said. “I think in the future, there is a way to have an outstanding event, but look at it in a more frugal way.”
Another popular event in Mobile is BayFest. Stimpson confirmed today that Executive Director of Cultural & Civic Development Bobby Bostwick is retiring at the end of the year from the city.
One of Bostwick’s responsibilities with the city is to organize BayFest. Once he retires, BayFest, a non-profit, will hire Bostwick to run the music festival.
“I think the city does not need to be in control of (BayFest),” Stimpson said. “We will have a liaison for the city to talk to Events Mobile and BayFest, but I do not want to tell them how to do their events.”
The city will have to be more hands-on with two lawsuits filed against the city while Sam Jones was mayor.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management filed against the city on Dec. 19, 2012 in reference to storm water runoff, and the issue will finally come up in Mobile County Circuit Court Dec. 16.
On May 3, 2013, ADEM filed a request as part of its civil lawsuit against the city asking the court to levy up to $475,000 in fines against Mobile. Stimpson is hopefully that the change in administration will help the city escape a costly judgment.
“I’m hopefully that ADEM realizes there is a change in approach at the city now,” he said
The city also is the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Waste Management, which runs the city’s Chastang Sanitary Landfill.
Officials claimed the company was cheating the city out of revenues from the landfill. However, Waste Management said they have overpaid the city and have spent money to maintain the city-owned landfill.
On Nov. 14, the two groups entered into a motion for mediation to try and resolve the issue instead of going to court.
Lastly, Stimpson said he and four other mayors would be involved in a first. Stimpson and the mayors of Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa will have a retreat in January.
“The idea is the mayors can learn from each other and see what is going to be happening in the five cities,” he said.
During Stimpson’s third week in office, he will meet with people who are interested in growing, relocating or starting a business in Mobile. Cooper said the administration has been proactive in reaching out to business leaders who were on the fence about having a business in the city and they hope the efforts will soon bear fruit.