State lawmakers on Thursday placed a 45-day hold on a new osprey sculpture being built at an Alabama Department of Environment Management (ADEM) facility.
The project is a stainless steel sculpture of an osprey and its nest at the new ADEM Coastal Office in Mobile, costing $116,700. The vendor for the project is Artistic Metal Creations LLC in Theodore.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said at a Contract Review Committee meeting on Thursday that the expense for the sculpture was "not acceptable."
"I don't know as good stewards of the taxpayer's money how in the world we can justify $116,000 sculpture for the front of a building in a place where ospreys are pretty prevalent," Elliott said. "You can look up in the sky and see them. You can put up a telephone pole and get a pallet and stick it on top of that. You can have a real live osprey living in your front yard a whole lot cheaper than $116,700 for a sculpture. Guys and anybody else that is listening, don't do this. Please, don't come before us with this kind of stuff. We are here representing the taxpayers."
Russell Kelly, ADEM chief of the permits and services division, said at a contract review meeting on Thursday that the project was part of the "entrance decor at our new Mobile field office" and was primarily funded with RESTORE Act funds.
"It's meant to tie in to the natural beauty there in the Bay in the coastline," Kelly said. "It's designed to stand the test of time. It's about, not quite one percent of the overall project. It's meant to allow the building to be a little more inviting, a little more environmental aesthetically."
The RESTORE Act of 2012 provides funding to the Gulf region to restore ecosystems and rebuild local economies damaged by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Committee chair State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) said, "We have other members that have concerns, some that couldn't be here. Some that called in. I share those concerns."
Legislators on the committee can't stop state or federal contracts from going into effect after the requested 45-day delay unless the state agency volunteers to pull the project.
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