If legal, a threatened veto from Mayor Joe Funderburg could irrevocably extend the planned opening date for Pell City’s splash pad. As of March 12, the project could potentially have a 11-day, make-or-break deadline.
During a special called Council meeting, the Pell City City Council approved bids to move forward with the project in 2015. After some debate, the vote was split 3-2 to spend $1,037,493.59. That figure includes the pad, 32 small features, a large center feature, parking, bathrooms, electrical and plumbing work and lighting.
Promptly after, Funderburg told the council he planned to veto the resolution for reasons of fiscal responsibility.
“I can tell you this right now. I’m not going with that number,” Funderburg said after the meeting. “That figure is extravagant. If it’s in my legal authority to do it, I’m going to drop a veto on it. You can take that to the bank.”
Under Alabama law, according to City Attorney John Rea, the mayor of a municipality with a population of more than 12,000 can veto resolutions and ordinances of a “general, permanent nature.” If that applies, Rea isn’t sure yet. He said he would review similar filings to determine.
The mayor must issue his veto within 10 days of receiving the approved resolution. City Clerk Penny Isbell has two days to deliver it to him. A regular Council work session is scheduled for March 19, and the next meeting is March 23.
“If he does this, there’s no splash pad, no nothing,” Council member Dot Wood said after the meeting. “We held this meeting today to order the features. It takes 12 weeks to get them in.”
On to that timeline, if Funderburg doesn’t veto and the project moves ahead, the 10-day extension tentatively pushes the earliest order date to March 24. That means the features would arrive around June 16.
However, if the veto is issued and holds, the package would likely need to be bid again. That would add at least two weeks to the order, plus whatever time it takes to for the Council to make a decision. Add 12 weeks for the features, and the opening date will have easily moved into late July or August.
The splash pad structure is, at the heart, the most expensive single element planned to be built at Lakeside Park in Pell City this year. But concrete, plumbing and plastic fixtures aren’t the only things attached to the approved $1.04 million work.
The parking area will include both a paved lot and an attached gravel lot for overflow. Not only will it serve splash pad visitors, it will offer additional parking for Kids Kastle and big events like bass tournaments. The new building and bathrooms included in the bid will service the whole park. State-of-the-art LED lighting will add safety for morning boat launches and evening events.
“All the calls I’ve received people have said, ‘Why are we spending this much money on a splash pad?’” Parks and Recreation Director Bubba Edge said. “When I tell them about all that’s coming with it, they’re pretty excited.”
Funderburg’s argument, which was supported with “No” votes by Council members Jay Jenkins and Terry Templin, is that being responsible with the public’s money requires a second look at the numbers across the board. He specifically pointed out the central fixture approved as part of the package has a price tag of $168,000.
“That item could’ve been left out,” he said. “We can trim this a little bit and still provide a very nice experience for our children.”
Wood said she felt the inclusion of a highlight feature was a top priority.
“This is Pell City,” she said. “You need to have that ‘Wow,’ you know.”
If a veto does arrive, the Council would have the ability to override it, Rea said, albeit with a two-thirds vote. This would require that either Templin or Jenkins change their minds for a 4-1 vote against the mayor.