Eutaw City Council approves contract with Water Management Services to correct problems with city’s water system

After months of debate and disagreement, the Eutaw City Council approved an agreement with Water Management Services to correct problems in the city’s water system in a 5-1 vote. All of the Council members voted in favor, while Mayor Raymond Steele is opposed and says he will not honor this contract.
In a special called meeting on Tuesday, August 4th at the Carver School gym, the Council voted to accept the agreement and a temporary ordinance to allow Mayor-ProTemp, LaJeffrey Carpenter, to sign the agreement since Mayor Steele has indicated his opposition and unwillingness to sign. The Eutaw City Council had previously removed the Mayor as Superintendent of the water system.
Council members Sheila Smith, Latasha Johnson and Joe Lee Powell have been pushing for this agreement with a consulting firm headed by Kathy Horne, former Executive Director of the Alabama Rural Water System. “ The problems with the water system have not been resolved for over three years, some water meters do not work properly, billing has been incorrect for many months and revenues have fallen short, so we can’t give city employees raises they deserve,” said Latasha Johnson.
Mayor Raymond Steele said, “Some Council members, who are running for office, are using the water system as a political football. Most of the problems have been resolved.” Council members Smith and Powell say the Mayor has never given a written financial report on the revenues of the water system during this term, which is part of the reason they removed him from his position with the water system, to clear the way for the management agreement.
The three year agreement with Water Management Services, a consultant company affiliated with the non-profit Alabama Rural Water System, will deal with the infrastructure, technical and financial problems of the city’s water system. The agreement also calls for the employment of a three person staff to help manage and correct problems with the physical system and the financial billing process. Water Management Services will also receive a $6.00 a month fee for each water system customer for its assistance.
The agreement is scheduled to begin by September 1, 2020 and show results over time in the condition and finances of the city water system. The proposal submitted by Water Management Services includes some examples of the prior work with rural water systems in Lowndes and Wilcox Counties as well as the City of Georgiana.
In other business, during its meetings on July 16, July 28 and August 4, the Eutaw City Council:
• Tabled an ordinance to prohibit electronic bingo, within the city limits, to secure more information on a potential proposed bingo establishment across from the Love’s Truck Stop.
• Approved the advertisement for bids for resurfacing of the M & M Drive.
• Agreed to bid out the cutting off hay at the City Park and other locations.
• Agreed to take bids for two storm shelters, one in Branch Heights and another located on Boligee Street.
• Agreed to seek bids for the air conditioning of the Carver Community Center gym.
• Agreed to give $1,200 in hazardous pay to city police force, from CARES funds received by the City; and toga all other employees the same hazardous pay bonus from CARES funds, if possible, otherwise from other revenues.
•Worked out an arrangement for Mattie Atkins, City Election Manager to use
the Council meeting room, as a temporary office and to secure additional help and poll officials as needed for the August 25th municipal election.
• Discussed FEMA agreement to fund the repair of washed-out streets and the need to involve more than one contractor and complete all of the work before additional rains make conditions worse.
• Agreed to pay bills for the city.
Heard a complaint from Akheem Blake at 310 Roebuck Avenue that his water meter does not work and that sewage was backing up into the bathroom in his house.

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