Eutaw City Council approves debris removal contract; agrees to prepare required water and sewer plans to support improvement funding

Eutaw City Council, Members of Hattie Edwards family and guests release ballons in honor of the former Mayor before Tuesday’s City Council Meeting

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

At its meetings on February 15 and 28, the Eutaw City Council took action in a number of areas related to debris removal from the January 12, 2023, storms, and the agreement to prepare several planning reports required as conditions of the $5.2 million ADEM funding for improvements to the Eutaw-Boligee unified water and sewer system.

At the February 28 meeting the council accepted a bid from the Looks Great Services of Columbia, Mississippi for clean-up of tree trunks and other debris left by the storm of January 12, 2023. Looks Great Services had been prequalified as a debris removal contractor by the Alabama Association of County Commissions for work after storms.

Because Greene County has been included in President Biden’s national disaster declaration of the January 12 storm, FEMA is able to grant more assistance to our area, including 100% reimbursement for debris removal for thirty days, ending March 18th. After that date, the city can be reimbursed 80% from Federal resources, 8% from the state and 12% local funding.

Mayor Latasha Johnson argued that she wanted the Eutaw Council to award the contract to Looks Great, because they could start immediately and do much of the debris removal, on a 100% reimbursable basis before the deadline on March 18th.

Another contractor was present at the meeting, who wanted to bid on debris removal if the council opened for competitive bidding, which would have taken a week or more of procedural delays to let a contract, even under emergency conditions.

Mayor Johnson said, “We have already spent over $80,000 on clean-up for the April storm in Branch Heights and the November 29, 2022, tornado which destroyed part of Sagewood and residences north of Kirkwood, storms which did not meet the threshold for a national disaster declaration. We need to get as much work done now, when we can get 100% reimbursement from FEMA.”

Sean Hunt, Executive Vice President of Emergency Response and Procurement for Looks Great Services said, “We have the equipment and personnel to remove the debris in the city by the March 18 deadline, if we have weather conditions that will permit us to work for the next three weeks.”

At its February 15, 2023, meeting, the Eutaw City Council agreed to work on a Fiscal Sustainability Plan for the Water and Sewer System, a Fats, Oils and Grease Control Plan, a Water and Sewer Operator and Staffing Plan, and a Professional Tank Maintenance Service agreement. All of these plans are required by ADEM as part of their funding process for the first $5.2 million grant of a promised $30 million-dollar, 5-year program, to upgrade the unified Eutaw-Boligee water and sewer system.

Corey Martin, Eutaw Water Operator said, “The State of Alabama is not going to invest $30 million in our water and sewer system without some assurance that its investment will be supported and maintained.”

Asked if these plans would require a water and/or sewer rate increase, the Mayor and Martin indicated that there were no plans for an immediate increase but over time there would likely be an increase in water and sewer rates, possibly tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which has been increasing due to rising wages and prices in the economy.

It was clear to this reporter, that ADEM’s request for these reports would lay the economic factual basis for a water and sewer increase, to keep pace with inflation in the economy and the need to repair and maintain the improved water and sewer system over time.

In other business at the February 15th meeting, the council:

• Approved a grant application to the Rebuild Alabama Act for resurfacing the Lower Gainesville Road.

• Approved a reimbursable loan of $10,000 to Greene County EMS for purchase of a boat to rescue people from the rivers or other bodies of water in and around the county.

• Approved the Mayor seeking to retain a land surveyor; travel for staff to training and $150 for membership in the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce.

• Approved reappointment of Roderick Fulghum and Corey Cockrell to the Zoning Board; Kevin Knott to the Airport Authority Board; and other board appointments

• Tabled a resolution establishing rates for the use of city property, e.g., the Robert H. Young Community Center, City Parks, and other facilities.

In other business at the February 28th meeting, the council:

• Heard reports from the Eutaw Volunteer Fire Department, that they had answered 11 fire calls and 4 vehicle extractions; and from Greene County EMS that the ambulance service was working and had secured a boat with the reimbursable loan from the city. The Fire Department reported that they had received the new fire truck but were waiting for additional accessories before it could be placed in service.

• Held a public hearing on the vacation of Totem Avenue and approved a resolution to vacate. This road connects Finches Ferry Road with the RockTenn box plant. The company plans to improve the road if the city awards the road and right of way to them.

• Approved storm debris removal contract and monitoring system.

• Approved a letter of commendation for Sgt. Latoris Woods and officer Willie Bryant for rescuing a lady motorist who drove off an embankment and into a ditch. Chief Johnson said his officers actions saved the woman’s life.

• Approved an ordinance for Emergency Fire and Rescue Operations.

•Approved payment of bills and claims.

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