Decatur City Council President Paige Bibbee wants a community group to pay to replace the mistake-laden plaque honoring the Rough Riders football team.
She was vocal in Monday’s work session that the city shouldn’t have to pay the $6,461 required to redo the bronze plaque with several names misspelled.
“It’s unfortunate, but I can’t as a representative of District 3 support the city paying to replace the plaque,” Bibbee said. “I’m tasked as being a good steward of the city’s money.”
Bibbee blames the nonprofit Northwest Decatur Community Development Corp. and District 1 Councilman Billy Jackson for the mistakes. Jackson said he went over plaque plans with Rough Rider members "but they were just looking at layout. They weren't looking at names."
She wants the nonprofit to pay for or find a private donor to pay for the new bronze plaque.
Unveiled last July at the new Rough Riders Park at the corner of 12th Street and Sixth Avenue Northwest, the plaque honoring this former semi-professional football team has four misspelled names and one other mistake. Community Development Supervisor Allen Stover on Tuesday said the following names are misspelled: Charles Campbell, Charlie French, Lewis Coger and Johnnie Thomson.
This is the latest conflict between Bibbee and Jackson, who called her “mean-spirited and vindictive” after the meeting.
Jackson said the expense should be handled with a change order, as it would be with any other city project. The city is getting the replacement plaque at cost.
“If we were broke, I might understand, but the city is in good shape and this is not very much when you consider we have a good balance in our unrestricted fund balance,” Jackson said of the roughly $3.56 million that was in the unrestricted fund balance as of Tuesday.
Adding urgency to the project, Rough Riders leader Floyd Jones said his teammates are all in their 80s now, so they’re beginning to die. They would like to get the new plaque up as soon as possible so their children and grandchildren will know the team’s impact on the community.
Floyd Jones pointed out that the Rough Riders were not only great on the football field, they also contributed to the community.
“I just turned 80 and I’m one of the youngest on the team,” Jones said. “I don’t understand why there’s a problem getting the plaque corrected."
Jones said most of the players live on a fixed retirement income that doesn’t allow them to help with the plaque.
“We still do whatever we can for the city, and there are some folks who are really upset with the city,” Jones said.
Jackson said the Northwest Decatur Community Development Corp. is also financially limited and may not be able to help with the project.
Rough Riders Leon Johnson, Walter Jones, Floyd Jones and Curtis Miller were frustrated and angry after the meeting. All said they didn't understand why Bibbee was opposed to the city paying for the new plaque.
City Council members Kristi Hill and Charles Kirby said they are more concerned about the process of getting the names right.
Stover said all 55 names on the initial drawing by GBW Architects were correct. Funded with a federal grant, the $423,000 park also includes a pavilion and a restroom.
Stover said the mistakes were apparently made when there was some debate among the Rough Riders leadership on whether the honorary members’ names should appear at the end of the list of 50 people or whether to put an asterisk by their names. One of the mistakes on the plaque is that asterisks were placed by the names, but they were not identified as honorary members.
Stover admitted that no one checked the names when they were returned to him with a final decision on the honorary members.
Councilman Charles Kirby said the plaque has to be replaced. “We need to put it in place and not let it (another mistake) happen again.”
Hill and Ard said after the meeting they’re not sure where they stand on who should pay for the new plaque.
“This is a tough one,” Ard said. “The problem lies with whoever signed off on the final art. I’m not sure what else the city could have done.”
Hill and Ard said they are more concerned about the process of proofreading and reviewing the artist’s rendering of the park and plaque.
“I don’t want this to happen again,” Hill said.
Danella Booker, of Austinville Road Southwest, said she hasn’t lived in Decatur very long but, after listening to the discussion, she believes the city should just repair the problem.
“In corporate America, when a mistake is made it doesn’t fall to the individual to carry the burden,” Booker said. “There should be some sort of compromise. The company is responsible for checking.”