Alabama Governor Renovates Mansion With BP Oil Spill Money

| by Michael Doherty
Alabama Gov. Robert BentleyAlabama Gov. Robert Bentley

Alabama is reportedly using money left over from a grant from BP after the 2010 Gulf oil spill to repair and renovate a beachside governor's mansion.

In December, second-term Republican Gov. Robert Bentley's office acknowledged that the up to $1.8 million project was underway and would be completed by May, The New York Times reports.

The decision has sparked controversy, including questions about whether the renovation is the best use of the state's resources.

"The so-called governor's mansion at the beach is a textbook example of poor stewardship of public resources," Jim Zeigler, the state auditor, told The New York Times. "The Alabama government is bad about taking money for one purpose and diverting it to somebody's pet project."

The 7,446-square-foot mansion, which lies on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, was badly damaged in 1997 by Hurricane Danny and has been decrepit and abandoned since. Neighbors have reportedly complained about the state of the building, which has boarded-up windows and a torn tarp covering its roof.

"The governor doesn't want this property to be an embarrassment any longer," Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for the governor, told The Associated Press.

Once the home is renovated, Bentley plans to use it to lodge visiting business executives considering Alabama for projects. Bentley may also occasionally stay in the mansion.

The plan has been received poorly by some in coastal areas of Alabama still recovering from the oil spill.

“Obviously, there are other things out there that are arguably more important, more pressing that could use that amount of money,” Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, told The New York Times. “We still have unmet needs, and, unfortunately, after it’s all said and done, we’ll probably still have those.”

In a Facebook post, Zeigler wrote that Bentley only made plans to renovate the mansion after he lost two beach homes in a divorce. Bentley denies the claim, pointing to the plans dated Aug. 27, 2015. His wife filed for divorce the following day.

"We've been working on this for a long time," he said. "Alright?"

Sources: New York Times, AP via CBS News / Photo Credit:  Governor Robert Bentley/Flickr, Sutherland Boswell/Wikipedia