What should have been a routine vote Monday night to hire a contractor to design Talladega’s proposed splash pad turned into a round-robin, back-and-forth meltdown highlighted by coordinated cluelessness.
Questions began soon after the council opened discussion of a resolution to enter into a contract with Neel-Schaffer Engineering to design the splash pad at a cost not to exceed $58,350. The overall budget for the splash pad is $750,000, which was approved unanimously in January as part of the city’s capital budget.
Councilman Ricky Simpson questioned the size of the splash pad, suggesting it should be as big as the splash pad in Pell City. Never mind that Pell City spent twice as much as what’s budgeted for Talladega.
Councilman Jarvis Elston questioned why Veterans Park wasn’t being considered for the location. City Manager Patrick Bryant explained that city staff had investigated several locations, including Veterans Park, and determined that placing the splash pad near the existing infrastructure, personnel and amenities at Spring Street Recreation Center made the most financial sense.
Elston also questioned why the city should be constrained by the price of the project, seeming to challenge the laws of economics. His further comments, however, indicated a desire to postpone building a splash pad indefinitely until the city can afford a bigger version.
Councilman Gerald Cooper questioned whether there would be enough parking. City officials eventually determined that the recreation center currently has 130 parking spaces, plus overflow parking and parking across the street.
Meantime, there was constant bickering, particularly between Elston and Bryant, who repeatedly pointed out that most of the concerns raised Monday night were addressed before the council voted unanimously to approve the splash pad back in January. Other questions, he said, would be addressed in the design -- which can’t begin until the contract is approved.
Frustratingly, the council voted 3-2 to delay getting a design for a splash pad they voted unanimously to construct. Anyone paying attention should have some questions of their own. Here are a few of ours:
Why refuse to approve the design contract based on not having enough details about the design, which is the point of the contract?
Why question the size of the splash pad, when you voted for the budget for the splash pad -- unanimously?
Why question the location of the splash pad at the Spring Street after voting unanimously in January to approve locating a splash pad at Spring Street?
Why have engineers, and public works officials, and parks and recreation officials, and numerous other city staff spend months researching the best possible scenario for the project if you’re not going to trust that they know what they’re doing when they report back with their suggestions?
Why vote to approve the splash pad in January without so much as asking a single question if you had all these reservations?
Not surprisingly, the three councilmen who voted to delay the contract were the same three councilmen who initially voted down Christmas on the Square and also tried to fire Bryant last year. A public backlash caused them to back down on both occasions.
Which leads to another question:
Could this level of incompetence be simple coincidence?