In the two fiscal years since it was first unveiled, Mobile’s capital improvement plan (CIP) has led to the commitment to repair and reconstruct some of the city’s most soggy and potholed streets.
An initiative pushed by the Mobile City Council more than two years ago and managed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration, the CIP takes a roughly 20 percent increase in sales tax — extended through next year — and earmarks it for various projects throughout Mobile’s seven council districts. The money, which totals more than $21 million per year, is split evenly among the districts, at an average of $3 million per district per year.
At its inception, councilors held meetings to allow constituents to help determine where most of the needs were. A majority of the complaints involved streets, through requests for resurfacing, drainage and reconstruction.
Records indicate the majority of the complaints came from residents east of Interstate 65, where the city’s infrastructure is the oldest.
Residents throughout the city made 71 calls to the city’s 311 number to complain about resurfacing since the beginning of the year. Of those 71 calls, about 44 percent, or 31 calls, came from District 2. That eclipses the total of 22 calls made in districts 4 through 7. Residents in District 1 made 13 calls and those in District 3 made five.
Dianne Irby, executive director of planning and development, said the city is working to commit the $21 million in funds from last year. In fact, Irby said the city has $16 million of that already confirmed with more on the way.
“There will be several [ordinances] coming to the City Council in the next few weeks,” Irby said.
The continued push to commit the earmarked funds toward previously approved projects, in addition to the recent approval of the fiscal year 2017 projects, will look like a constant stream of work to residents, Irby said.
“People will really like what they see,” Irby said. “People will really like to see it on their street and we’ve raised expectations.”
City staff members work with councilors to prioritize CIP projects. The criteria has four parts, Irby said. Infrastructure criticality, which considers probability and consequence of failure, is weighted at 40 percent. Project viability, which measures how risky a project’s delivery will be and whether or not it is well understood, is weighted at 20 percent. Community benefit, which involves the councilors and measures direct impacts in the community, is weighted at 20 percent, as is strategic alignment, which takes into account Map for Mobile guidelines.
While areas of east of I-65 do typically see a bigger need for resurfacing, Irby and City Engineer Nick Amberger said drainage issues can affect all areas of the city.
“It depends on circumstances” Amberger said. “When it comes to rain events, there are no district boundaries.”
For example, Irby said, storms in December caused flooding and drainage issues in District 7, while District 2 was largely spared. The problems resulted in a large portion of Councilwoman Gina Gregory’s 2017 CIP money being used for drainage repairs that have already been carried out.
To protect against the effects of future rain events, Irby and Amberger said the city has established an annual repair and renewal fund, which acts as a budget for these types of projects.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Amberger said. “Budgeting for what’s going to happen is an important part of it.”
Resurfacing and drainage issues are the chief concerns among District 2 residents, Councilman Levon Manzie said. While the reconstruction of Ann Street is clearly a commitment, it is costly.
“It’s happening section by section, block by block,’ Manzie said. “Right now we’re on the third block in District 3.”
One of the reasons the reconstruction is being worked on piecemeal, Manzie said, is that the infrastructure under the pavement is also being replaced as crews work on resurfacing it.
“It’s not just a resurfacing,” Manzie said. “We can’t just put new blacktop over it. Our experts say if we do that the deficiencies will come back in about two years.”
Each small section of Ann Street, Manzie said, will cost around $3 million. While it’s the first priority in District 2, Manzie said he’d also like to put resources toward Texas Street, which he called “horrendous,” and parts of Old Government Street. Manzie said he’d also like to see money help resurface older, concrete streets near the Loop and streets in the Plateau area.
In total, Manzie’s district will see close to $800,000 for resurfacing and $30,000 in drainage inlet repairs.
“Last year we put less than a million [toward resurfacing],” he said. “This year we’ll have about $1 million to expend. We won’t be able to address all the needs.”
The CIP did commit money to start Texas Street from Interstate 10 to Broad Street, but Manzie said he’d like to finish it.
“From Broad on down, it’s in deplorable condition,” Manzie said of Texas Street. “It will have to be a total rebuild.”
Sidewalks and amenities in the district’s community centers are also priorities moving forward. The 2017 plan will devote more than $400,000 to sidewalk repairs and installation.
As for some of the other large 2017 CIP projects, about $200,000 will be spent on a Plateau streetscape, $130,000 will go toward downtown pedestrian lighting improvements, $132,000 will be used for Little Flower Avenue’s rebuild and $100,000 will be used for neighborhood streetlight repair.
Councilman C.J. Small is seeing commitment to a larger array of projects after the majority of the district’s 2016 money went to fund Ann Street reconstruction.
He would like to see resources put toward reconstruction of Baltimore and Arlington streets. Small added several streets off Dauphin Island Parkway have not been paved since the Mayor Lambert C. Mims administration in the 1970s.
“I wasn’t even around when Mims was mayor,” Small said. “I’m in my 30s. Some of those streets haven’t been paved in 30 or so years.”
The district’s more than $4.4 million in CIP money for 2017 includes the following large projects: More than $3.2 million on Ann Street reconstruction from Arlington to Douglas streets; $475,000 for lighting at Martha Maitre Park; and $285,000 for resurfacing.
Councilman Fred Richardson said more than $1 million was spent on resurfacing in last year’s CIP and roughly $600,000 would be spent in 2017. Drainage issues along Florida Street were a priority in 2017, but Richardson said he’d like to look at Grand Boulevard going forward. He admitted with only $3 million per year there may not be enough to go around.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get to Grand Boulevard,” Richardson said.
Also on the horizon for 2018, Richardson said he’d like to look at resurfacing in Trinity Gardens.
Large items in the District 1 CIP include: $171,000 for a drainage repair at La Pine Drive; $810,000 for Trinity Garden ditch closures; $150,000 for sidewalks along Mobile Street from Spring Hill Avenue to Nall Street; and $125,000 for repairs at Figures Park.
District 4 representative Councilman John Williams has put $525,000 toward various resurfacing projects in the district. Other large projects include: $100,000 for lighting at the Graystone facility; and $225,000 for drainage repairs at Burma Hills Drive and Maudelayne Drive.
Councilman Joel Daves has approved $500,000 for resurfacing of various streets as part of the 2017 CIP. Other large project expenditures include: $550,000 for signal improvements along Airport Boulevard from Sage to McGregor avenues; and $250,000 for a Michael Boulevard sidewalk from Montlimar Canal to Azalea Road.
Councilwoman Bess Rich has approved $625,000 in road resurfacing for District 6. In addition, the district’s large CIP projects include: $425,000 for a Medal of Honor Park playground renovation; $198,400 for striping; $140,000 for Coronado Court ditch repairs; and $150,000 for sidewalks on Hillcrest Road from Hickory Ridge to Medal of Honor Park.
District 7, represented by Council President Gina Gregory, will see $475,000 in street resurfacing money. In addition, the 2017 CIP includes the following major projects: $200,000 for shade structures and sidewalks at Langan Park; $120,000 for drainage improvements at Airway Park Drive and Schillinger Road; $100,000 for ditch repairs at Montlimar Canal and College Lane; and $150,000 for the entryway and landscaping at the Mobile Botanical Gardens.
Manzie, Small and Richardson all said they support extending the sales tax increase past the 2018 fiscal year. Small said he has yet to receive a negative comment.
“I wouldn’t mind extending it for the next couple of years,” he said. “People are seeing it at work and it’s the best way to get extra money.”
Manzie said it’s good that citizens can see where the money from the tax increase is being expended.
“Unless a plan is presented to me to me that can provide the same level of resources, I’m in favor of continuing it,” he said.
At a recent City Council meeting, Rich discussed the findings of an ad-hoc committee on taxation, which she chairs. The committee found repealing the extra sales tax and increasing property tax as well as adding a garbage fee would lead to a much more stable funding source.
Small said he was against a garbage fee.
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