DECATUR – The Decatur City Council identified several ways Monday to stop the spread of video gambling parlors throughout the city.
A majority of council members suggested that they would support capping the number of Class P liquor licenses, which allow for video gambling parlors, and reducing that number over time. They also said they would support distance requirements for new parlors to prevent them from opening in clusters.
The council discussed its options during a study session, with votes slated for a future meeting.
“We've never leveled out. We just keep getting more requests,” Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said. “The only people I've really heard from who are excited about additional Class P licenses are the people who own them.”
There are currently 79 locations in Decatur with active video gambling licenses, according to information presented by city staff. There are 23 Class P licenses, with another seven applications pending.
Council members generally indicated they wanted to cap the number of licenses at 30, and to reduce the number to 20 through attrition.
The Class P licenses were created in 2015 because establishments were abusing the Class G licenses awarded to restaurants, said Councilman Jerry Dawson, who is also the city's liquor commissioner.
In other business, the council voted to approve bids for street repairs that members previously rejected at the Aug. 1 meeting.
The council voted 5-1 to approve the bids of R.W. Dunteman for $978,000 in asphalt work and Otto Baum Co. for $385,000 in concrete work. The projects are the first to be funded by the city's local motor fuel tax, which took effect in April.
Moore Wolfe, one of the four initial “no” votes,” motioned to reconsider the bids.
“I really wanted to get the work done this year,” she said. “We've been collecting this money. If it just sits in the bank all winter, it's not doing anybody any good.”
Funk was the lone “no” vote. Councilman Bill Faber, who previously voted against the bids, was absent.
Funk and Dawson expressed concerns about three contractors whose bids were deemed nonrespsonive by city staff, with their bids not considered. City officials have refused to publicly name those contractors, who contacted some council members with their concerns.
According to city staff, the contractors failed to meet requirements, approved by the council in 2015, that were designed to increase minority participation in public works projects.
The goals require that contractors make a “good-faith effort” to ensure minority workers perform at least 18 percent of the total hours worked on city projects. When the job includes a subcontractor, the goal is for 10 percent of the total dollar amount to be performed by minority-owned businesses.
City staff members clearly outlined the expectations in a pre-bid meeting, City Manager Tim Gleason said after the meeting, expressing “100 percent confidence” in the staff's work.
He said contractors were told that a good-faith effort meant contacting three possible minority subcontractors. The ordinance does not require the contractor to hire those subcontractors.
“If the contractors decide (the subcontractor) can't deploy quick enough, just as one example, to be here in time to complete that portion of the work, that's entirely their decision,” Gleason said. “But hopefully that's signaling to the minority community that there's opportunities in Decatur and they potentially expand those operations in our city or in this area.”
Funk said he had significant concerns about the city staff's determination of what constitutes “good faith,” and thought the ordinance should include an appeal process for contractors who felt they met the requirements.
“We have a financial problem. It doesn't make sense to me to pay more for the same work, when we have qualified contractors that have been responsive in their own assessment, to pay more for it,” he said. “It just doesn't make sense, and I don't think it's good policy.”
Councilwoman Dana Ray said multiple contractors understood and followed the requirements that were outlined by city staff. Those who did not “either were sleeping on the job or just blatantly decided that they were not going to adhere to the rules,” she said.
“We can't have this going on for every bidding process. We're not going to get any business done,” Ray said. “Already we have delayed this project for a month … because someone doesn't like the hoops that they had to jump through.”
Several people spoke before the meeting in favor of the minority participation ordinance, including Pat West, chairman of the Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce and NAACP Decatur Branch President Jeanelle Norman.
“You have an opportunity to make the right decision and to send the message that the city of Decatur is open for business for all of its citizens,” West told the council.
Council members requested a study session, slated for Sept. 6, to receive an overview of the entire bid process, including the requirements of the minority participation ordinance.
The council also reviewed a final draft of its goals as presented by city staff. Council members have identified their goals through study session discussions over a period of months, during which time the city also sought input from residents.
Gleason said the goals document would be posted on the city's website once it is finalized.