Financing for the new $16.5 million Homewood recreation center will likely be decided by the incoming City Council after a special-called meeting to vote on that issue was cancelled Monday, October 29.
A sign on the front door of City Hall read the meeting was cancelled for “lack of a quorum.”
However, outgoing Council President Allyn Holladay said the meeting actually was cancelled after she questioned its legality.
Last week, council members Fred Hawkins and Walter Jones – both re-elected to the 11-member body — called a special meeting for October 29 at 6 p.m. to discuss and select the firm that would underwrite bonds used to construct the $16.5 million new recreation center. Mayor Scott McBrayer had planned to recommend two bond firms – Protective Securities of Birmingham, and Montgomery-based Merchant Capital – to the council.
But Holladay, in an email to the city clerk, mayor and other council members, offered that the meeting was illegal according to Alabama law.
Holladay cited that state statute allows the presiding officer to call a special meeting when he or she deems “the public interest may require it and whenever two aldermen or the mayor request him in writing to call such meeting.”
Holladay said she received no such request. “In this instance, I was never asked to call a meeting, either verbally or in writing,” she said. “It was called behind my back.”
She said she checked with City Attorney Mike Kendrick via email, who confirmed the state law applies to Homewood also. Holladay said she didn’t hear back from Hawkins or Jones and later learned the meeting had been cancelled. The note at City Hall also said the meeting has not been rescheduled.
Efforts to reach Hawkins and Jones Monday night were unsuccessful.
Holladay and McBrayer said they’d prefer the decision on financing the new recreation center be made by the incoming council rather than be perceived as an illegal vote. “I am not against the rec center,” Holladay said. “I’m merely for a correct process. Let’s just do it correctly.”
Holladay said the new council shouldn’t be put in a position to carry the debt of the proposed new facility without a say in the matter. “The people who will be responsible for the debt will have the opportunity to hear every request and all the proposals and understand exactly what they’re doing,” she said.
The new council is scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 5.
Newly elected Council President Bruce Limbaugh said he doesn’t believe the current council could squeeze in another special-called meeting before the new council takes office.
The new council could hold a special meeting to discuss financing of the proposed project, Limbaugh added. “Can there be a special-called meeting after Nov. 5? Sure,” he said. “What I’ve asked the mayor to do is to provide us in the next few days a detailed summary of the financial package for this. That’s what the new council wants to see: the details on this.”
The proposed new recreation center has its supporters and detractors. Critics of the project say it’s unnecessary at this time, given other capital necessities such as the need for a new jail and judicial facility in Homewood. But supporters say the old recreation center is outdated and doesn’t accommodate the city’s current recreational needs.
Hawkins had said in a previous Weld article that council members weren’t trying to rush the project through but were concerned delays would impact recreational programs at the center. He said if the bid process isn’t done by January, the recreation center stands to miss two pool seasons.
Limbaugh said concerns about the new council killing the recreation project are unfounded. “The decision about the rec center has already been made,” he said. “That ship has sailed. That’s no longer an issue. What is an issue is the financing for it. And we need to learn more about that.”