Keeping the City Running

by Bill Harkins, Executive Director of Public Works

Even before the sun creeps over the bay, dozens of Mobile’s Public Works employees are providing key services to our citizens. Our Sanitation Department picks up household garbage, those tan and black garbage carts, at 72,000 residences each week.  Not to be outdone, our Trash Crew removes tree limbs and other such material throughout the City.  These are key pieces of the intricate mix of departments that work diligently to keep the City running.

Not only do our Trash and Garbage teams pick up and properly dispose of tons of material each day, they flawlessly adjusted their routes throughout the City a few months ago. As anticipated, we’ve seen a higher rate efficiency and productivity as a result.  This, along with the purchase of several new vehicles for these sections, has reduced overtime costs alone by over $70,000 this year.

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Other Public Works crews are patching holes in the street, repairing curbs, cleaning our 35,000 storm drains, sweeping streets and clearing ditches.  With agility, they move from routine work to emergency situations at a moment’s notice.  The worse the weather, the more work these professionals attack with the goal of helping Mobile function as smoothly as possible.

If a traffic light malfunctions or streetlight is run over, the Traffic Engineer and Electrical Departments are en route to correct the problem.  If a neighborhood group is planning a cleanup, Keep Mobile Beautiful is quick to provide assistance in the form of “litter grabbers” and other equipment. No City department could accomplish their critical tasks without the skilled support of the personnel in the Garage and Motor Pool. They keep the fleet maintained and ready for the personnel on the streets who accomplish the wide variety of tasks many Mobilians take for granted.  The Equipment Services team is famous for their ability to adapt to any situation as they work diligently to keep the City’s vehicles on the road.   public works1

Besides the day to day work, Public Works is a critical part of preparation for and recovery from the many special events conducted in our City.  The pinnacle of this is observed directly during Mardi Gras.  If you want to witness an amazingly efficient and well-orchestrated operation, step back when you see the fire truck coming at the end of a parade this year and enjoy the show!  Tons of material are swept and picked up from the streets, sidewalks and parks, keeping this litter from clogging our drainage system and polluting Mobile Bay. Thousands of heavy steel barricades are moved back and forth before and after the parades, providing a safe environment for everyone having a good time.  Supervisors make adjustments on the fly, ensuring a smooth process amidst all the noise and flashing lights.  Like the support services provided at the Super Bowl, no one notices how great they are unless a problem pops up and is not resolved quickly.

Public Works is proud to be an integral part of the team helping Mobile become the safest, most business and family friendly city in America by 2020. Our employees work in all kinds of conditions, seeking to provide top notch services to our citizens, we do our part to keep the City running – full speed ahead!

We Are Evolving – From Vision to Implementation!

By Shayla Beaco, Senior Director of City Planning Contributors: City Planning Staff

Everywhere you turn, Mobile is showing positive signs of growth in each corner of our city. A new Publix grocery store in Midtown, an improved Bel Air Mall, a hotel at McGowin Park, and the Federal Courthouse   construction on St. Joseph Street in our downtown are just a few examples of the many projects that adorn our great city. These new developments represent confidence in our local economy, expanding business opportunities, and underscore flourishing local market conditions. While Mobile has greatly benefitted from a number of key community and economic development wins in recent years, what we’ve lacked during the last several decades is a long-range growth plan that provides a clear course for development and reinvestment.image02

Beginning in March of 2015, the City initiated efforts to formulate the Map for Mobile: Framework for Growth. During this process, we received input from almost every area of Mobile, ranging from very organized neighborhood groups to active involvement from our development community. The Map for Mobile is the first all-inclusive plan initiated in over 20 years. It identifies core critical needs for Mobile, shaping a long-term vision of the community, while offering practical growth solutions that align with our core development principles.

Designed to function as a living document, Map for Mobile outlines a multi-year action plan. The associated action plan outlines four planning horizons: ongoing, near-term, mid-term and long-term horizons which help us to ensure progress as well as to stay in concert with the City’s capital improvement plans and other focused planning studies and district plans. Many of these studies and special plans are currently underway – providing specific strategies to achieve Mobile’s vision for growth. This plan is updated on an annual basis to review strategies and actions for implementation and is then presented to the Mobile Planning Commission for approval.

Led by the City’s long-range planning team, our many department heads along with key staff meet on a regular basis to review the progress of implementation. This cross functional team tracks over 71 initiatives identified in the plan to ensure measurable results and outcomes. One of the very first steps in implementing the vision and principles set forth in the plan now focuses on the reform of City codes and ordinances, particularly land use, zoning and subdivision regulations – most of which date back to the 1950’s and 60’s. In June of this year, the City engaged White & Smith, LLC, a nationally recognized planning firm to conduct a complete overhaul of our development regulations. Organized as a law firm, White & Smith has completed over 150 planning and code projects in 36 states across the country.  Understanding our changing market conditions, particularly as we benefit from new growth opportunities in this post-recession era, it is evident that our primary objective should now focus on creating realistic planning Map for Mobile – Focus on the Future Workshop: March 30, 2015 outcomes that will support our local market. Ultimately, we look to create a simplified user experience that is easily navigable, offering predictability in the overall regulatory review process.

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Source: AL.com

As an “early win” for this 24-month process, the City is in the process of reevaluating our current landscaping requirements. Known as a “Tree City” we are certainly proud of the heritage oaks that line our historic corridors. However, they create very costly challenges in our efforts to maintain our already crumbling infrastructure. In short, our sidewalks, storm water systems, and in some instances road conditions, are compromised by the root systems of aging trees. To ensure that we are now making the right long-term decisions regarding tree selection and placement, the Right-Tree Right-Place Taskforce was established by Mayor Stimpson to inform decisions regarding enhancements to our current landscaping ordinances. When completed, this newly revised code will precede the adoption of the zoning overhaul to address current landscaping issues, but will also illustrate the City’s efforts to ensure an all-inclusive and practical decision-making process.

We are also committed to continuing our efforts to ensure ongoing citizen and stakeholder engagement as this expectation has been set by the many Mobilians that have participated in the Map for Mobile process thus far. As a 300-year- old city, quality urban design is a very important component of our plan. Citizens throughout Mobile have stressed the importance of preserving our unique character and neighborhood identity; therefore, our final product will reflect this community priority. Stay tuned for neighborhood workshops to be held in November. Visit www.mapformobile.org for forth coming meeting details and announcements

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We consider this overall effort to be a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity for our community in that we are currently living with the decisions of our planning leadership made over 50 years ago. With community input and buy in, our planning team has now been given the responsibility of creating policies and regulations that will impact our community for years to come. We do not take this task lightly and look forward to the opportunity to bridge our efforts to grow and build a better Mobile!