Eutaw City Council votes to purchase firetruck; continues to debate Eutaw-Boligee water grant

Proposed firetruck the City of Eutaw purchased

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

At its August 23rd regular meeting approved purchase of a used 2006 Pierce Quint 75, 60-foot-long firetruck, with a forty-foot ladder, for $250,000. Several members of the Eutaw Fire Department went to inspect the truck in New Jersey and found it meet the city’s basic requirements and the truck could be housed in the current space below City Hall.

The firetruck will be moved to Huntsville, where some minor adjustments and mechanical repairs will be made before it can be picked up by the Fire Department, according to Brandon Broach, Deputy Fire Chief. The Fire Department will be able to pick up the truck within a few weeks and drive it to its new home in Eutaw, Alabama.

At the regular meeting the City Council opened bids for the grass cutting and maintenance of the two cemeteries. There was one bid which was higher than the current cost. Mayor Johnson suggested continuing to contract with Kay Dees Lawncare for 3 or 4 more cuts of both cemeteries at $1,500 per cut. The Mayor’s suggestion was approved. The Council tabled opening bids for the roof at the Robert H. Young Community Center because the bid had not been properly advertised.

The Council approved soliciting bids for the repair of Robert Street, Woodfield Street and Wheatland Circle, pursuant to earlier decisions to use American Rescue Plan and gas tax monies for these repairs.

Eutaw-Boligee Water Grant Agreement

At the August 23, 2022, regular meeting the Eutaw City Council agreed to accept a $3.5 million grant to consolidate and improve the water systems of Eutaw and the Town of Boligee. The Council in a previous meeting declined to accept a $3.5 million, half grant and half loan proposal, from ADEM and USDA, because the City of Eutaw could not go into further debt and because most of the funds would be used to upgrade the Town of Boligee’s service.

Mayor Johnson and Mayor Samuels of Boligee discussed the problem of accepting the grant-loan combination with Congresswoman Terri Sewell. Sewell was the only Alabama Congressperson who voted for the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Bill, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which contain funds for water and sewer improvements, targeted to  historically underserved communities. Sewell was able to negotiate a change from a $3.5 million grant-loan combination to a 100% grant for what is needed to improve the water and sewer systems of both Eutaw and Boligee.

There have been two subsequent meetings of Eutaw and Boligee mayors, councilpersons, attorneys, engineers, press and others. The Town of Boligee raised some concerns about giving up its water and sewer systems to consolidated control and management by Eutaw. They also wanted Eutaw to take on some past indebtedness of Boligee to USDA Rural Development, which Eutaw did not want to accept. Boligee also wanted its sewer system improvements included in the consolidation.

In a combination in-person and zoom meeting on Monday, August 29, 2022, most of these issues had been resolved. John Laney of ADEM said that USDA Rural Development would “take care of the Boligee water indebtness” and that Eutaw would not need to assume the costs.

Laney said he was open to a proposal from Eutaw and Boligee for use of the $3.5 million water grant and a $1.3 million sewer grant to Boligee, and potentially more funds as needed for the consolidated system, provided the consolidated water and sewer system insured proper pressure and quality of drinking and wastewater for Boligee; improved the City of Eutaw water and sewer system for its residents, was not overdesigned and was of reasonable cost.

Another factor in these negotiations is that the Greene County Industrial Development Authority’s water and sewer system, in the Crossroads of America Industrial Park, is linked in to Boligee’s system and ties back to the City of Eutaw as well. Phillis Belcher, Executive Secretary of the GCIDA, stated that in making any improvements to the water and sewer system, that there should be no reductions in service to the Crossroads of America Park, and that improvements, with a view toward attracting new industries, should be considered in making changes to the system.

The zoom meeting with Laney from ADEM ended with an agreement that Eutaw and Boligee’s attorneys and engineers would prepare new preliminary plans, cost estimates and phasing in of all needed improvements, no later than the end of September. The City Councils of Eutaw and Boligee would need to approve these new plans to make sure they were acceptable.

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

•Approved a resolution for an annual review water and sewer rates and adjustments according to the CPI if needed.
• Approved a new water purchase agreement to be presented to Consolidated Catfish Processing Company.
• Heard a request from First Baptist Church to repair a road that passes behind the church.
• Approved declaring a Dodge Charger police car surplus and sell to the Town of Pickensville for $10.00, to use for parts.
• Approved travel for City Clerk and Assistant to training in Tuscaloosa in October.
•Approved payment of all bills and claims.
• Police Chief Tommy Johnson announced Police Night Out for September 15, 2022, at Robert H. Young Community Center.

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