By John Mullen
Interviews of the 34 applicants for the new Gulf Shores School Board will begin soon and Mayor Robert Craft said he and the city council face a tough task ahead.
“It’s going to be phenomenally difficult to boil that down to five, but we have to start that process,” Craft said at Monday’s council work session.
The city council heard the update on the school board and discussed continuing the spring break alcohol ban, reversing the Christmas parade route and the safety of the Mardi Gras parade. Several members of the Gulf Shores High Band were injured in an accident at the start of the 2017 Mardi Gras parade, some seriously. Craft expressed concerns about continuing the parade.
Gulf Shores will vote on the alcohol ban and assembly permits for the parades and other upcoming events at the next council meeting on Nov. 13.
At the end of Monday’s meeting Craft heaped praise on the 34 who are seeking spots on the new school board.
“We were delighted to receive 34 completed applications for board participation,” he said. “An extraordinary list of applicants. It’s a wonderful group of community-involved citizens with a lot of expertise and a lot of abilities to help us with our schools. I couldn’t have been more excited to see the turnout, the number of people, the quality of people and the folks that are willing to give their time to create a special school for our community and our kids.”
The city announced on its website the five selected for the panel will be named at the Nov. 27 council meeting. Among the 34 are current Baldwin County School Board member Angie Swiger, Island Task Force for Education Chairman Kevin Corcoran and Orange Beach City Clerk Renee Eberly.
“We will be working on that and scheduling interviews and work toward that conclusion,” Craft said. “You should be really proud of the citizens in your community who filled out their forms and are willing to donate their time for this worthy cause.”
Police Chief Ed Delmore asked the council to continue a spring break beach alcohol ban from March 3 through April 8 in 2018. An unruly beach crowd in 2016 prompted the first ban in the early days of spring break that year.
“The first few days in 2016 of spring break, probably the result of a lot of other Gulf Coast communities tamping down on spring break issues, we had significant issues here on the beach,” Delmore said. “As a result, the council called an emergency meeting and we banned alcohol on the beach for the remaining period of spring break for ’16. The results were immediate, the results were wonderful. It worked.”
The ban returned in 2017 to the same type of success, Delmore said.
“We had a good mixture of spring breakers and families on the beach,” he said. “The exact atmosphere that we’re looking for. In light of that success, we’re asking that the council once again pass that temporary limited ban on alcohol during spring break.”
Craft asked Bill Brett of Brett-Robinson, one of the largest vacation rental companies on the island, how the ban affected his company. Brett is also chairman of the board of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.
“We cannot measure any adverse effects from our business,” Brett said. “It makes the beach nicer for everyone.”
The city’s recreation department is already planning the upcoming Christmas parade for Dec. 1 and the Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras parade set for Feb. 13 in 2018. Craft threw his full support behind the Christmas parade but expressed reservations about Mardi Gras.
A Ford Expedition ran into the back of the Gulf Shores High School Band at the start of the 2017 parade injuring 12 students ranging in ages from 12-17.
“I support completely the Christmas parade,” Craft said. “It’s an important event for our community and has been for a long time. This one has a less degree of importance to me. I question whether this is something is worth the risk of us doing again.”
Councilman Jason Dyken’s son was a band member during last year’s parade but wasn’t one of the injured. He supported continuing the parade to foster healing from the accident.
“Having a son that was in the band during that event last year, and seeing the band and the homecoming parade over there, it was really a healing opportunity for everybody involved,” Dyken said. “Not only for the band members but the teachers, students, the first responders, the community. You can’t control the world and I think it continues the healing process the community goes through.”
Resident Tony Diliberto said he’d like to see the parade continue.
“Things happen in this world,” Diliberto said.” We can’t control our surroundings and it’s a fabulous community activity. It’s something us local people get to do in this town.”
Swiger said even though it was a terrible incident, it was an isolated incident. She called for safer practices to prevent accidents in future parades.
“I think it’s a great community event,” she said. “I think it brings a lot of visitors in. To me, it’s a real feel-good event. The kids work really hard all year to do this and it’s a privilege to them.”
Councilman Gary Sinak said he was in favor of keeping both parades in town as well.
The council also discussed:
• The proposed Marsh Landing Mobile Vendor Court on Alabama 59 just north of Windmill Ridge on the east side of the road. The court would straddle a canal there and have 10 mobile food trucks on the north side and parking on the south side. A pedestrian bridge over the canal from the parking area is also part of the proposal.
• Rezoning a 200-acre parcel at the southwest corner of County Road 8 and the Foley Beach Express from Agricultural to Education. The city has in recent years expressed interest in an educational campus on the site with a new high school and even some college presence there. The new Auburn University complex is under construction just north of this 200-acre parcel.
• Assembly permits for the Kaiser Half Marathon on Nov. 25 in Gulf State Park and the fourth annual Zydeco and Crawfish Festival in the Waterway Village District on April 14.
• A liquor license for the Crazy Cajun which will be located in the former Mojo’s building near the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.
34 apply for spots on Gulf Shores School Board
Mayor Craft and the Gulf Shores City Council are currently reviewing all applications and will be selecting a group of applicants for in-person interviews within the next week. The final five candidates who will collectively become the inaugural Gulf Shores City Board of Education will be appointed at the City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 27.
The following citizens have applied to serve:
1. John Allard; 2. Cary Alan Bathrick; 3. D. Scott Bedford; 4. Paul Shannon Boodoian; 5. Amoreena Brewton; 6. John A. Burmeister; 7. Keith Jennison Burroughs; 8. Jeffrey James Coeur; 9. Kevin Scott Corcoran; 10. Arthur Raymond Davis, Jr.; 11. Renee Chang Eberly; 12. Deborah Evans; 13. Ralph R. Gold, Jr.; 14. Nichole Gotschall; 15. Paige Newman Griffin; 16. Angela Grilli; 17. John Andrew Hammack; 18. Paul Andy Haynes; 19. Dale Kayser Jernigan; 20. David Alan Jones; 21. Laura Stinson Killough; 22. Kevin Mark Kolego; 23. Gavin W. Kostelecky; 24. Mary Emerson Gipson Lowry; 25. Steve Means; 26. Rosemary Reichstetter; 27. Richard Patrick Schaffer; 28. Bo Leigh Smith; 29. Jennifer Anne Stephenson; 30. Monica Angie Swiger; 31. Kelly Lynne Walker; 32. Kristie vonEberstein Wheeles; 33. John David Whetstone, Sr.; 34. Rita Fields Wright.