Local Paper Still Spinning the Truth – And You’re Paying for It

It has been a long year and media in general hasn’t made it any easier, but one media outlet in particular took things too far. In August I made the decision to take action.  I had an attorney send a demand letter for a retraction of a fabricated quote the editor at GCN (The Courier) attributed to me in one of his many biased articles. The retraction happened, but the damage to the City was done.  He knew the statement was malicious and Gulf Coast Media knew, or should have known, that this statement was totally false, yet they published it anyway.

After receiving the letter from my attorney, a citizen forwarded me a screenshot of what the the author of the article posted on his FB page:

 

Attempting to destroy the reputation of a city, stirring up unnecessary drama and spinning the truth is no joking matter.  And it is costing our City greatly.

A few days ago, another hit-piece article by the same person insinuated that the City may have violated state law with the use of our city barricades.  If he knew the whole process started with a city councilman reaching out to one of the city employees to help out a fraternity brother whose father worked for the Roy Moore campaign, maybe he wouldn’t have started the “investigative” story.  The “state law” violated was that council should not direct city employees.  That is the role of the mayor and I was never contacted.  In fact, I didn’t know about the details of what happened until the “reporter” started asking questions.  Bottom line, barricades were used to protect citizens and all City expenses were reimbursed when the invoice was paid.  The probe is simply embarrassing and a waste of time.

In addition, I received the following email yesterday questioning why I misled council and the public about the debris removal contract.  As with most of his negative reporting on my administration, he takes the questions he’s been fed from his secret sources, presumes the questions are fact-based, uses sensationalized headlines, confuses the public and ultimately further divides the office of the mayor and council.

His questions are typical of his reporting – he implies I’m guilty and asks how I wish to respond and invites council to point fingers – which they do.  When he finishes his articles, you will also notice there are never any “unavailable for comment” responses from detractors as his articles are intended to be a platform for, and pander to, council, disgruntled city employees and adversaries.  Therefore a response from me is not important for these articles. However, I will bring the facts to the citizens as always – the same facts that were shared with council in July so they could make an informed decision.

I decided not to answer the questions and instead waited until he posted the article to see what was written, again without facts, and see how the detractors responded.  I had this blog ready to post and everything came out exactly as I predicted.

Here is the article. (I will discuss why I didn’t sign the appointment for the City attorney later).

I requested the purchasing manager to rebid ALL contracts in January, which included debris removal – six months before it expired – in an effort to leave PLENTY of time to get RFP responses in and to review them.  Pittman Tractor received this request and declined to rebid.  The other answers are in red:

 

Here are the facts about the Debris Removal Contract I sent to council in July:

Click here to read the email I sent council.

Click here to read the attachment to the email from Volkert

As you can see, council was given all the facts.

I hope the editor will begin to recognize that leaked documents and misinformation  he’s being fed are coming from politicos and special interests that want to see me fail.  But because I have only one agenda – to make positive changes and enhancements in our great City in a meaningful way – it has been more difficult than they expected.

It has gotten a lot easier to ignore the lies and innuendo directed at me, however, when these articles start costing the City in unnecessary legal fees, disparaging City staff and subjecting the City to unwarranted liability – all at taxpayers expense mind you – I will come back with the same tenacity that got me elected and will continue to give you the facts.

The Courier is primarily funded by legal ads.  Since the Courier has relinquished its role as a legitimate primary publication of record for the City of Fairhope, I will be seeking an alternate source in which  to place our legal ads. You deserve better.

Sincerely,

Mayor Karin Wilson

 

Fairhope Marina & Boatyard: A City Asset for Our Community

Some Fairhope residents may be unaware that the city owns the Marina, beachfront, and boatyard located at the end of Seacliff Drive. This area is currently known as the Eastern Shore Marina, but at one time was called the Fairhope Docks and was completely owned and operated by the City of Fairhope.

Currently, the existing leases will expire for the boat slips and a boatyard this October and we have an opportunity now to enhance this city asset to bring better services and quality of life to both citizens and visitors.

The City Council and I have discussed the following options:

Although a final decision for future plans for the marina should be made with input from an experienced marina planner, Sea Cliff residents and more citizens, the decision needed today is how to handle the two leases expiring in October.

The prior council resolved to begin bidding these waterfront properties out six months before October 2017. We are officially five months out before the leases expire.

Marina’s History:

Unfortunately, we are unsure of how the city originally acquired this property but I’ve sent a request to the city attorney to formally investigate the title to the marina properties and to return the original deeds and any dedications or resolutions of these waterfront properties to me and city council to review.

We do know that the Fairhope Docks came into being during World War II. A string of shrimp boats lined the western side of Fly Creek, and a small concrete block building served as Fairhope’s fish market where shrimpers and fishermen sold their daily catch to our residents. Its reputation was far and wide. Today, that building houses 17 Turtles, an entrepreneurial endeavor, which our city will continue to foster, that rents out kayaks and canoes for those who want to venture up Fly Creek or out into the Bay on a calm day.

For a city that treasures its history like we do, we have sadly lost much of which now belongs to the Fairhope Marina at Fly Creek. We know the fishing industry suffered over time and only a few shrimp boats remain reminding us that not only have we always been an art “colony” but we have also been a fishing town. Shrimping continues today at the marina though on a smaller scale.

Roy Reynolds who lived on Volanta Avenue “went down the hill” in the 1970’s and started the first ‘boat fixing’ business at the marina. We know this because Donnie Barrett, our Fairhope Museum Director, worked for Mr. Reynolds “lifting heavy equipment and working in the heat” for 50 cents an hour. In the 1980’s our government decided to lease out the marina property. That lease is coming to an end this year, and the City has the great opportunity write a new chapter to better serve our community.

 

Click to Download Marina Lease October 2002 

Click to Download Boatyard Lease – Eastern Shore Marina 01-11-2016

Why were the Fairhope Docks originally leased out? By law a city cannot lease or sell its property unless the council says it is “not needed.”

This city asset has been classified as “NOT NEEDED” by prior council and
leased to a private operator since the 1980s.  The most recent lease  required $3,000 per month or 6% of gross revenues. (For the previous 15 years the lease was $1,000 or 5% of revenue and for 14+ years the $1,000 threshold has never been surpassed).

These low rents do not properly reflect the worth of the $3.3 million property. Overall, the City is only paid $43,500 annually in rent for this property. In comparison, Fly Creek Marina charges $300 per month for a 25-foot boat. Just four 25-foot boats generate $1,200 for the Fly Creek Marina. In contrast, the City of Fairhope generates $1,100 for 62 leased slips.

This city asset could in fact be “needed” by the citizens of Fairhope for many various purposes. One major purpose to keep in mind is the City’s responsibility to maintain environmental protections and upkeep of our bay and bay front properties. In addition, Fairhope citizens certainly use our other parks for recreational and leisure purposes.

The parcel of land that is currently being leased is worth $3,102,800 at fair market value. How could something so valuable be considered “not needed.”  The land, the buildings and the piers altogether are worth $3,381,000.

While our lessee may have provided a much-needed service to boaters with slips and boat repairs, there has not been accountability for the general maintenance over the years.

As Mayor of the  City of Fairhope, I am one of a 10-member council for the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery.  When I took office I submitted a proposal for $6,000,000 to invest in the marina and bay front city assets and the proposal is currently in its second phase of approval. Regardless of its approval however, the city needs to revitalize, invest and maintain our marina with your tax dollars:

The demand is high for boat slip rentals. It only makes sense the city receive 100% of fair market value on the revenue from the marina slips rental and fuel dock to maintain this asset for future generations.

And I’m not alone in this opinion.

Click here for the marina case study summary.

Click here for Comp study other municipal marinas.

The next step is obtain the title to the marina properties and to return the original deeds and any dedications or resolutions of these waterfront properties from our city attorney.  Review the findings and council will make a decision on how to proceed with the two leases.

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