Aug. 15, 2017 — In its last regular meeting before next week’s municipal elections, the Birmingham City Council spent most of its time Tuesday directing key concerns on a variety of subjects toward Mayor William Bell.
The most notable of those discussions were about the still-unpassed FY 2018 budget, an unfulfilled construction contract and the removal of confederate monuments from Birmingham’s public spaces.
The lack of a budget for the fiscal year – which started July 1 – had an immediate impact on the meeting’s agenda. Five proposed amendments to the capital fund budget were removed from consideration due to the lack of a budget. Council President Johnathan Austin said Bell had not yet set a date to discuss the budget with the council.
“We need to know when we are going to sit down and have a discussion with you,” he said. “We have a lot of work that’s going on in the city. We have several initiatives that, of course, can’t start until we pass a budget.” Bell said his office would work out scheduling with the council later this week, but he would not promise Austin that the meeting itself would take place this week.
District 9 Councilor Marcus Lundy spoke during the meeting about his concerns regarding the Bethel-Ensley Action Task, a community revitalization program contracted by the city to build homes in the Enon Ridge neighborhood. BEAT was contracted by the city in 2015 to build two houses in that neighborhood for $300,000, Lundy said, but only one has been completed.
“BEAT has not fulfilled its contract,” Lundy said. “In fact, they are delinquent.” The two houses were supposed to be built in a 24-month period, Lundy said, but that did not happen. Additionally, he said that BEAT had not submitted required quarterly and annual reports, nor had it supplied the city with a project development schedule. “The city, in turn, has not held BEAT compliant nor accountable,” Lundy said.
He requested that the mayor rescind a new contract with BEAT, approved by the council in July. That contract gives the organization $1.5 million to build 10 more houses in Enon Ridge.
“I would love if we could cease and desist on all activity on that second contract,” Lundy said, suggesting that the city, instead, give the contract to “another developer that’s going to honor the commitment to the people.” Bell responded that his office would examine potential solutions to the issue.
Lundy said he plans to make the issue a priority during his final months in office. He announced in May that he would not seek re-election; his term ends in October. “I plan to finish strong, and one thing I’m going to do is keep talking about Enon Ridge until I leave,” he said.
The council also voted to approve the following travel expenses: $1,772.50 for Brendolyn High, an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office, to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the 3027 National Forum for Black Public Administrators; $1,578.28 for April Odom, the mayor’s director of communications, to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Meeting; $1,126.08 for Renee Kemp-Rotan, an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office, to travel to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to visit the Atlantic Center for the Arts, a “case study site”; and $2,479.75 for Kelli Solomon, an executive assistant in the mayor’s office, to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend a meeting of the International Association of Administrative Professionals.