MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile City Council approved a multi-million-dollar bump to a project to build a parking deck at the Mobile Civic Center, but the votes did not come without controversy among city council members.

The parking deck was originally budgeted to cost $30 million. However, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the rising cost of construction materials and labor contributed to the 30% cost increase.

When the item to transfer the additional $9.66 million from the city’s General Fund to a Capital Improvements Fund was brought up in the pre-council meeting, District 7 Councilwoman Gina Gregory was the first to break the silence. She said that although the cost increase was not ideal, she felt pressure to approve the transfer of money to meet the project’s deadline and avoid spending even more money on another planning phase. Her opinion was echoed by other council members.

District 4 City Councilman Ben Reynolds proposed three changes to the building that would save the city $432,400. The changes include:

  • Diminishing the thickness of the skin of the building by three inches.
  • Using PVC pipes instead of steel pipes.
  • Using thinner lines for the fire sprinkler system.

The city council reviewed Reynolds’ proposed changes during Tuesday’s pre-council and regular council meeting. However, other council members brought up concerns for the building’s structural integrity if those changes were to be made.

“It’s cheaper to go ahead and pay for it today rather than worrying about it in the next 10 to 15 years and worry about a hurricane or other elements that might come and destroy the building,” City Council President C.J. Small said.

Volkert Inc. is contracted to work with the city on the project’s budgeting.

“We identified some things that I would say, superficial level, that don’t compromise any of the quality, don’t compromise any of the structural engineering but are some ways to take a little bit of the cost out,” Volkert Inc. Vice President of External Affairs George Talbot said.

Talbot said that although the city council voted in favor of the $9.66 million cost bump, Volkert would still be able to bring cost-saving options before the council in the future.

The parking deck will boast 1,026 parking spaces, but with an inflation-adjusted price, that’s just under $40,000 per parking space.

The price to renovate the entire Civic Center was budgeted to be $170 million to $180 million, but, the city said that figure could likely increase by $30 million to $40 million for the same reasons.

Another hot topic among the council was the time pressure the city is under to get the project finished.

The city entered into a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow them to use a portion of the parking deck for their operations. The city aimed to have the parking deck finished by January 2025 for use by USACE.

Groundbreaking has already started on a nearby building that would house the USACE, but ground has yet to be broken on the parking deck that would house a portion of their fleet.

Talbot said groundbreaking on the parking deck is expected to begin by the end of the year.