Eutaw City Council votes to use $200,000 in ‘earmarked account’ to pay necessary city expenses

At the end of a long and raucous meeting, filled with arguments and motions to table issues, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to take $200,000 from an account earmarked for Branch Heights Roads to pay necessary and accumulated bills for the city. Councilmembers: Latasha Johnson, Benny Abrams, Joe Lee Powell and Mayor Steele voted in favor while Councilmembers: Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voted against.
The City of Eutaw utilized $500,000 earlier this year from its gas tax accounts to resurface the roads in Branch Heights and place speed-bumps where needed. The Mayor said these funds were now needed to pay accumulated bills for needed items, like chemicals to treat the city water, repair costs for city equipment, and other expenses where vendors are threatening to cut the city off for non-payment of past bills.
City Attorney, Zane Willingham, said that he could find nothing in the Greene County Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing bingo that restricts or earmarks the use of funds. The Sheriff’s bingo rules and the City Council’s decision to place funds in ‘earmarked accounts’ was a policy decision that could be changed by the Eutaw City Council that initially placed restrictions on the funds but now needs them for other purposes.
Mayor Steele said the city’s problems with finances are because the city tax base has not expanded over the past thirty years. “The opening of the Love’s Truck and Travel Center in October 2019, will help to employ more people and expand our sales and fuel tax revenues. But we will need more economic expansion to fully cover the costs of city services and operations.”
The City Council also agreed to purchase a new truck (estimated cost -$35,000) and a new tractor (estimated cost $20,000) for the city street department, from the gasoline tax funds.
The Council received a report from Rob Pearson, with Mason and Gardner Accountants, who presented a draft report of budgets for the City General Fund and Water Department. He said that both budgets showed a deficit with expenses exceeding revenues. After many questions from Councilmembers it was agreed to hold a more detailed discussion of the budgets at a work session to be held on the third Tuesday in September.
Mayor Steele reported that the Alabama Rural Water Services had visited and reviewed the city’s water system including the new meters, softwear and billing systems. They found 294 problems and have corrected 200 of them. “They plan to be back soon to correct the remaining accounts and get the system operating properly,” said Steele.
The Council tabled a number of controversial issues that come up regularly at meetings, such as the policy not to accept cash, undercover tags on city vehicles, use of city facilities for meetings and activities of non-city agencies and organizations, drainage repairs on private property, salary increases for staff, disposition of the Assistant Police Chief and others.

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