Alderman-at-large Bobby Cox apologized Tuesday night to volunteers who helped renovate the old city Armory for what he called the mayor’s lack of respect for the project.
He said Mayor Connie Moran attended the ribbon-cutting event last week and talked among the crowd about how the city could have had a $3.5 million multi-purpose storm shelter and gymnasium paid for by FEMA, “but we have this instead, because of the aldermen.”
Moran doesn’t deny expressing an opinion on the loss of the FEMA-funded gym three years ago, but she said she did praise Cox’s project at the ribbon-cutting.
When Cox made his apologies for the mayor, Aldermen Matt McDonnell and Gred Denyer walked out. On their way out of City Hall, they said they'd had enough of the mayor. Both men support a change in government that would put a city manager in charge, a position aldermen could hire and fire at will.
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The Armory being renovated into a practice gym or children’s basketball gym has been a pet project of Cox’s for several years. He raised the money and completed it using Seabees, other volunteers and city Public Works employees.
Moran, however, said if the aldermen had worked as hard to raise money to support the FEMA project, the city would have had a state-of-the-art gym that would have had more space for events than the Civic Center.
The aldermen voted not to pay for support items, utilities and a staffer the FEMA gym would have needed, and walked away from almost $300,000 the city had already put into that project.
“This is not hurt feelings, this is a travesty for the city,” Moran said after Tuesday’s aldermen meeting. “We could have had a state-of-the-art gym and what we got was an undersized 65-year-old practice gym.”