Greene County Commission approves resolution requiring face coverings to slow spread of coronavirus; reaches partial agreement with Sheriff on budget shortfall

In a specially called telephone conference call on Monday, June 29, 2020, the Greene County Commission adopted a resolution requiring people to wear face coverings, when they are in public settings, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The resolution is a response to the continuing rise in coronavirus cases in the state and in Greene County. During the month of June, cases in the State of Alabama rose from 18,000 to over 37,000 with deaths increasing from 653 to 986.
In Greene County cases increased from 95 with 4 deaths to 164 with 7 deaths.
The County’s resolution which goes into effect at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 and continues indefinitely until changed by the Commission, has some exceptions. You do not need to wear a mask at home, driving in your car, and when you are outdoors, with less than ten people, who are socially distancing, by at least six feet.
The County’s resolution as contrasted with the City of Eutaw’s ordinance, has no enforcement provisions or penalty for non-compliance. The Eutaw ordinance has a warning ticket for the first offense and a $25 fine for each additional violation.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the nation’s Federal health agency strongly encourages the wearing of face coverings – masks, when people are in public settings as a preventive measure to stop the spread the highly contagious novel coronavirus.
The City’s ordinance is printed in full in our Legal Advertisement section.
According to Commissioner Chair, Allen Turner, the County Commission declined to run their full resolution as a Legal Advertisement.
Commission reaches partial agreement with Sheriff Benison on budget shortfall
The Greene County Commission held two recessed meetings in the past two weeks to discuss the budget shortfall in the Sheriff’s account for personnel and operations. These meetings were held in Executive Session, behind closed doors because they involve legal matters and the name and character of individual employees. After the Executive Sessions, Commission Chair Allen Turner informed the public that no formal official votes were taken to resolve the matters under discussion in the private sessions.
The Greene County Democrat was provided with an exchange of letters between the Greene County Commission and Sheriff Joe Benison on the status of the Sheriff’s Department budget. In prior discussions and negotiations, the Sheriff had agreed to pay supplementary funds to support the employment of staff positions for deputies and jailers beyond the amounts contained in the basic Commission budget for 2019-2020 fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2019.
In its June 23, 2020 letter to the Sheriff, the Greene County Commission indicates that the Sheriff has, as of June 2020, spent all but 9% of budgeted funds for personnel and that there are no other funds that can be transferred to this line item. The County has continued to pay all of the Sheriff’s staff under a prior agreement that the Sheriff would reimburse the county, presumably from electronic bingo fees earned by the Sheriff. The Sheriff has not paid the agreed upon amounts.
In the letter, the Commission states for the six months, January to June 2020, the Sheriff has paid $381,264 of $ 759,303 owed for additional staff above the budgeted number. The Commission also requests immediate payment of two pay periods, at $41,473.10 per pay period, for salaries – $82,964.20; and an additional $100,000 to replenish other budget items that have been depleted to pay staff to date. The Commission also requests payment of $163,000 monthly, starting July 1, as provided in its original agreement with the Sheriff. The Commission says in its letter if the required payments are not made, then reductions in staffing will be implemented.
In his letter of June 25, 2020, Sheriff Benison responds to the County Commission by saying that events, more specifically the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted electronic bingo from mid-March to mid June, have occurred, which make it impossible for the Sheriff’s Department to meet its commitments under the original September 2019 agreement.
The Sheriff requests that the 2019 contract be declared null and void, canceling his $ 378,039 debt to the county because of the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19. The Sheriff agrees to pay $41,473.10, for each two week payroll, starting now and each two weeks following. He also agrees to pay the County Commission $104,973 in bingo fees for the month of July and as much as $135,363 in ensuing months. Under the Sheriff’s bingo rules, the Commission is entitled to these funds, when bingo is operational. The Commission has budgeted these funds for a match fund for Federal and State road and bridge projects.The Sheriff seems to be suggesting that the Commission use these funds to make up the deficit in his operational budget. The Sheriff also requests that there be no layoffs in staff for this fiscal year period.
The Sheriff and the County Commission discussed the issues in their respective letters behind closed doors in the Executive Session. They were not able to reach a full resolution of the issues. The County Commission was unwilling to release the Sheriff from his obligations under the original contract and still holds him responsible for the $378,039 debt.
We have learned that the Sheriff gave the Greene County Commission, two checks for $41,473.10 each, to cover the current and next upcoming payroll and promised to bring additional funds in July, towards his share of the Sheriff’s Department budget. This partial solution averted the layoffs of any Sheriff’s Department staff.
In his letter, the Sheriff also indicates that if circumstances force electronic bingo in the county to close again that he would be unable to meet his financial obligations to the county.

Alabama Power holds informational meeting and exhibition on plans to close and seal coal ash pond at Greene County Steamplant near Forkland, AL

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher and Editor

Forkland Mayor, Charlie McAlpine asks a question of Alabama Power engineer at public meeting.
Alabama Power engineer explains model of coal ash pond closure.

On Monday June 29, 2020 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, Alabama Power Company held an informational meeting and exhibition on its plans to close and seal a 474 acre coal ash pond, located on its Greene County Steamplant site, near the Town of Forkland in the southern portion of Greene County.
The plant which used to burn coal to generate electricity now uses natural gas for this purpose. The Greene County Steamplant is also the largest property tax payer in Greene County and contributes significantly to education and public service in the county.
Coal ash is a residue of burning coal which contains heavy metals and other pollutants that can wash or leach into the river and groundwater sources of public drinking water for people in Greene, Marengo and surrounding counties.
Under Federal environmental regulations , Alabama Power Company must go through a public meetings and comment process to explain its plans to close and contain the coal ash plants at each of its electrical generating plants in the state. The public meeting in Greene County was one of several scheduled in the next two weeks around the state dealing with closing coal ash ponds at company facilities.
The meeting was set up an an exhibition with five stations where portions of the coal ash closure process were explained and illustrated. There were explanatory panels, maps. charts and actual models of the plans to deal with the coal ash pond closure. Alabama Power engineering, environmental and management staff were available at each station to answer questions.
There was no formal meeting where all attendees sat down for a question and answer session with officials of the company. This reporter is used to attending meetings of that kind where all the participants can learn from the questions and concerns of others. There is an official comment process through the Alabama Power website and the sites of the state and Federal agencies charged with permitting and overseeing the process.
The current 474 acre coal ash pond at the Greene County Steamplant abuts the Black Warrior River and the closure process is designed to prevent runoff and leakage of untreated water into the river and possibly into underground acquirers that provide drinking water for people in the area. The current pond is surrounded by more than twenty wells monitoring water quality. These wells will remain in place after the closure process and monitor for water seepage and runoff.
The plan calls for treating and removing all the existing water from the coal ash pond. As the water is removed the size of the pond will be decreased to 268 acres, almost half the original size. The coal ash will be exacted and moved further from the river to leave a 400 yard buffer from the river waterway. Then the plan calls for constructing a 2.5 mile subsurface wall around the pond. This wall will be two feet thick and 30 feet below the ground. The wall will be tied into the underground natural chalk layer in the area, providing a natural way to seal the materials in place.
The pond will be covered with a specially engineered plastic layer, plastic grass and sand which will help with storm water runoff. Water that does run off will be treated again before release into the river. The sealed pond is rated to withstand a 1,000 year flood, earthquakes and other natural threats.
The coal ash pond closing process is already underway at the Greene County Steamplant and will take five to seven years to complete. There are a number of permits and environmental approvals to secure moving forward. Alabama Power seems very confident in the value and safety of its design and plans.
It was difficult to make an independent judgement on the effectiveness and safety of the Alabama Power plans without extensive engineering and environmental knowledge. The newspaper will seek out these points of view in future articles on this important project impacting the health and economic development of Greene County.
For more information on the project and to make comments go online to: AlabamaPower.com/environmentalmeetings.

Ke’Undra Cox seeks Eutaw City Council Seat District 1

My Name is Ke’Undra Cox. I am running to represent District 1 on the Eutaw City Council. I am passionate about our community. I want to do everything I can to make this a city we can be proud of. My platform has a focus on three things: Jobs, Transparency and Investment.
Data has shown that when people in a city are working not only does the city improve, but the wellbeing of citizens improves. Transparency is key between the people and its government. We must ensure that the people know exactly what the city council is doing and why. They also must have the ability to easily get in contact with their city councilor and ask any questions or express any concerns.
Finally, we must invest in our city. We need to ensure the city has a positive public image, this includes not just infrastructure but also investments into the community, including but not limited to: new housing, a recreation center, renovation to the city park and more events that promote community unity.
I believe that the time has come for a new generation of leaders in the city of Eutaw. I know that together change is possible. Together we can achieve anything we put our minds to.
I was born July 1, 1998 to Monica Cox and Willie Davis, Sr. in Eutaw, AL. I was later adopted by John Cox and former Eutaw City Council member Trudie Cox. I moved to the Birmingham area in 2007 and was raised by my Auntie Phillis Brown. I graduated from Minor High School in 2017.
After high school I began a career in the United States Air Force Reserve, which included assignments at Maxwell, Lackland and Goodfellow Air Force Bases.
I am currently enrolled as a cadet at Marion Military Institute in Marion, AL, pursuing an Associates in Arts Degree. I am also on track to achieve the Bachelor of Science in Political Science Degree in 2024.

Newswire: Election rerun in Malawi scores upset victory for opposition

Lazarus Chakwera and family at swearing-in ceremony


June 29, 2020 (GIN) – In a landmark presidential rerun, Malawi’s sitting President has been ousted from power after a sweeping victory by a popular Pentecostal preacher and former theology lecturer who promised to unite and serve all Malawians.
“I want to provide leadership that makes everybody prosper, that deals decisively with corruption and theft of public funds and a leadership what will follow the rule of law,” declared Lazarus Chakwera, who chalked up more votes than the former incumbent, Peter Mutharika, in the election rerun.
Mutharika was President of Malawi from 2014 till May 2019, when he ran for re-election and beat Mr. Chakwera by a hair. There followed a flood of challenges, citing widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on ballots. The election was annulled in court.
In essence, the Constitutional Court judges argued that Malawians deserve, and should expect, an A- grade election – not perfect, perhaps (who can boast that?) but free of systemic abuse. They should not have to make do with the more familiar C+ election that some nations and institutions still seem to tolerate or encourage.
They also implied that a slap on the wrist was not enough, and that Malawi’s precious democratic institutions needed to be properly defended.
This was an important blow against a widespread culture of impunity. It was just the second time in African history to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.
“We have had a very credible election compared to the 2019 presidential election,” Malawian human rights activist Luke Tembo told the AFP news agency.
“The fact that people came out in large numbers to vote … has to be taken as a very strong message, moving forward, that Malawians will never allow their vote to be stolen.
“I do feel like Lazarus, I’ve come back from the dead,” Mr. Chakwera said, vowing to unite the country and fight poverty.
“Of what use is freedom from oppression if you and I are slaves to starvation? Or freedom from colonialism if you are a slave to tribalism?”
Mr. Chakwere, 65, who heads the opposition Malawi Congress Party, was born in a tiny village outside of the capital city, Lilongwe, to a subsistence farmer. He studied theology at the University of the North in South Africa and at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois and wrote several books on religion.
The philosophy and theology graduate has pledged to raise the national minimum wage and revamp industries that would add value to the crops of Malawian farmers.

Newswire: Barack Obama, other celebs tip caps to Negro Leagues’ 100th Anniversary

By: Jim LItke, AP

Former President Barack Obama tips his cap

Barack Obama tipped his cap. So did three other former U.S. presidents and a host of prominent civil rights leaders, entertainers and sports greats in a virtual salute to the 100-year anniversary of the founding of baseball’s Negro Leagues.

The campaign launched Monday with photos and videos from, among others, Hank Aaron, Rachel Robinson, Derek Jeter, Colin Powell, Michael Jordan, Obama and fellow former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter at tippingyourcap.com.

On the receiving end of those tributes are many of the Negro Leagues’ greatest alumni: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell and Jackie Robinson, who began with the Kansas City Monarchs and went on to break the color barrier in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Not long after, with many of its best players gradually following Robinson’s path, the Negro Leagues ceased operations.

Singer Tony Bennett, showing his heart, tips a San Francisco Giants cap. Californian Billie Jean King opts for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Clinton said he chose a Chicago Cubs cap in honor of Ernie Banks, the late Hall of Famer who got his start in the Negro Leagues.

But, Clinton added: “This cap is for Hillary, too, when finally, the Cubs won the championship. Long before that, the Negro Leagues made baseball better and America better.”

The celebration was moved online after a major league-wide tribute to baseball’s Black pioneers scheduled for June 27 was shelved — along with the games — because of the coronavirus pandemic. At first, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick worried that his longstanding plan to honor the men and women who battled long odds for a game of their own would have to be postponed, at best.

“In our game, there’s nothing more honorable than tipping your cap,” Kendrick said. “And once I realized that national day of recognition was going to fall by the wayside, I thought, ‘OK, maybe we can do it next year.’ But that didn’t really do it.

“So then I thought, ’How about a virtual tip of the cap?‴ Kendrick paused, then chuckled. “And let me say here and now, there is no way I could have done this myself. I could not be more proud of the response.”

Kendrick got the lift he was looking for from communications specialist Dan McGinn and longtime NLBM supporter Joe Posnanski, a sports writer for The Athletic and author of “The Soul of Baseball,” chronicling his yearlong road trip promoting the Kansas City-based museum and the stories behind it with legendary Negro League star, the late Buck O’Neil.

O’Neil was the driving force behind the museum for decades. The NLBM has expanded several times since Rube Foster, as skilled an executive as he was a baseball pitcher, founded the first Negro National League at a YMCA on the same site in 1920.

Kendrick said his personal favorite tribute came from Jackie Robinson’s family.

“It’s Rachel tipping her cap, but there’s four generations of Robinson women in that video talking about our common cause and it evokes the kind of emotion at a time when our country really needs it,” he said.

“And you know,” he added a moment later, “it’s funny how this whole thing worked out. I always felt if there was going to be conversations about race in sports, the Negro Leagues should be at the center, because that’s the story: They triumphed over adversity.

“I got to know so many of them, and not a single guy that I met ever harbored ill will, at least to the point where they let it block their path. Everybody else thought the major leagues were better, but you couldn’t convince them,” he concluded. “They just wanted the chance to prove they could play this game as well as anybody else.”

They did, forging a rich legacy that will echo with a new generation thanks to something as simple as the virtual tip of a cap.

Newswire: SPLC announces $30 million investment to increase voter registration

NNPA Newswire Staff Report

Black voter shows button



The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today announced it is investing up to $30 million from its endowment in voter outreach organizations in the Deep South to increase voter registration and participation among people of color with a lower propensity to vote.
The initiative, called Vote Your Voice, is focused on increasing voter participation specifically in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning in 2020 and running through 2022.
“This initiative is especially important right now, as millions of people across the country feel the urgency to make our voices heard this fall after the continued silence from our leaders on the many Black people being killed by police,” SPLC President and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Huang, said in a news release.
“Voting won’t solve this problem the day after the election but in order to begin dismantling white supremacy, we need to ensure that every voter of color is able to cast their ballot without interference or hardship.”
Huang continued: The work ahead of us will not be easy. The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on democratic participation for communities of color who have been harmed most deeply by the health and economic crisis and who will encounter greater barriers to voter participation given the new risks of voting in person on Election Day.”
Numerous organizations across the five states are working to promote voter participation and reach communities of color, returning citizens and young people, but they are struggling to secure resources to further their outreach amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an era of social distancing, and major economic recession, the SPLC said in a statement.
Vote Your Voice, a partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (Community Foundation), will administer grants up to a total of $30 million available for nonprofit-nonpartisan activities through 2022 as organizations navigate reaching their constituents amidst the pandemic and other obstacles.
“We are proud to partner with Southern Poverty Law Center to target education and mobilization efforts that support a robust, and fair, election process,” said Community Foundation Vice President of Community Lita Pardi.
“We must all work to end systemic barriers that deny our citizens their right to vote, especially in Black communities across the South.”
Other Vote Your Voice goals include:
• Reconnecting with constituencies that historically and currently face barriers to voting, focusing on returning citizens, voters of color, and those who have been purged from voter rolls.
• Engaging voters who are often ignored by outreach programs, including low-propensity voters of color and voters of color who live outside of major metro areas.
• Building greater capacity for voter outreach work to combat voter suppression by providing multi-year support through the 2022 election cycle.
• Funding and supporting organizations that are led by people of color.
The SPLC and the Community Foundation will award their first round of grants in early July and a second round later in the summer. Organizations that work with communities of color have been invited to submit grant applications as part of the first round. The second round will be conducted through an open Request for Proposals process.
Officials noted that Vote Your Voice builds on the SPLC’s ongoing voting rights work to enable every citizen in the Deep South the opportunity to have their voice heard at the ballot box.
In the past two years, the SPLC invested a combined $2 million to help pass the Amendment 4 ballot initiative in Florida and increase voter registration and turn-out in Louisiana and Mississippi state elections.
Meanwhile, in federal courts, the SPLC has successfully sued Florida on its unconstitutional poll tax and has ongoing litigation challenging Mississippi’s lifetime voting ban for citizens with certain felony convictions.
Since May of this year, the SPLC has filed litigation in Alabama and Louisiana to challenge election laws that force voters to choose between participating in democracy and protecting their health.
Information regarding Vote Your Voice is available, with a grant application coming soon at: https://www.splcenter.org/vote-your-voice

Newswire: NASA announces Washington DC Headquarters will be named for Mary W. Jackson

By: tffhthewriter

Mary W. Jackson, NASA Engineer

NASA engineer and mathematician Mary W. Jackson is finally getting her just due.

On Wednesday (Jun 24) NASA announced plans to rename their headquarters located in Washington DC after the first Black female aerospace engineer Mary W. Jackson. Jackson, who was the agency’s first American American female engineer in 1958, opened up opportunities for countless women of color in STEM who followed in her footsteps.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement to CBS News. “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building.”

NASA took to social media with the special announcement writing, “Our headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African-American female engineer at NASA. She started in research and later moved into the personnel field, working to ensure equal opportunity in hiring and promotion.”

Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr. Bridenstine continued.”Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

Jackson’s career, along with those of other pioneering black NASA scientists including Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, became widely recognized after the publication of Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” In the subsequent film Hidden Figures, Jackson was played by award-winning musician and actress Janelle Monáe.

Newswire : Mississippi surrenders Confederate symbol from state flag

By: Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press

Mississippi students protest state flag

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will retire the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem, more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

A broad coalition of lawmakers — Black and white, Democrat and Republican — voted Sunday, June 28, 2020, for change as the state faced increasing pressure amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.

Mississippi has a 38% Black population, and critics have said for generations that it’s wrong to have a flag that prominently features an emblem many condemn as racist.

The Senate voted 37-14 to retire the flag, hours after the House voted 91-23.

Cheers rang out in the state Capitol after the Senate vote. Some spectators wept. Legislators embraced each other, many hugging colleagues who were on the opposing side of an issue that has long divided the tradition-bound state.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign the bill into law in the next few days.

Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez choked back tears as he told reporters that he has seen white colleagues develop more empathy about how the Confederate symbol is painful to him and other African Americans. “They began to understand and feel the same thing that I’ve been feeling for 61 years of my life,” Johnson said.

A commission will design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, and that would be sent to voters later.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who is white, has pushed for five years to change the flag, saying the Confederate symbol is offensive. “How sweet it is to celebrate this on the Lord’s day,” Gunn said.

Legislators put the Confederate emblem on the upper left corner of Mississippi flag in 1894, as white people were squelching political power that African Americans had gained after the Civil War.

In a 2001 statewide election, voters chose to keep the flag. An increasing number of cities and all Mississippi’s public universities have taken down the state flag in recent years. But until now, efforts to redesign the flag sputtered in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

That dynamic shifted as an extraordinary and diverse coalition of political, business, religious groups and sports leaders pushed for change.

At a Black Lives Matter protest outside the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion in early June, thousands cheered as an organizer said the state needs to divorce itself from all Confederate symbols.

Religious groups said erasing the rebel emblem from the state flag is a moral imperative. Notable among them was the state’s largest church group, the 500,000-member Mississippi Baptist Convention, which called for change last week after not pushing for it before the 2001 election.

Business groups said the banner hinders economic development in one of the poorest states in the nation.

In a sports-crazy culture, the biggest blow might have happened when college sports leagues said Mississippi could lose postseason events if it continued flying the Confederate-themed flag. Nearly four dozen of Mississippi’s university athletic directors and coaches came to the Capitol to lobby for change.

Many people who wanted to keep the emblem on the Mississippi flag said they see it as a symbol of heritage. The battle emblem is a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups have waved the rebel flag for decades.

The Mississippi Supreme Court found in 2000 that when the state updated its laws in 1906, portions dealing with the flag were not included. That meant the banner lacked official status. The Democratic governor in 2000, Ronnie Musgrove, appointed a commission to decide the flag’s future. It held hearings across the state that grew ugly as people shouted at each other about the flag. Legislators then opted not to set a flag design themselves, and put the issue on the 2001 statewide ballot.

Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, who is now 97, served on then-President Bill Clinton’s national advisory board on race in the 1990s and was chairman of the Mississippi flag commission in 2000. Winter said Sunday that removing the Confederate symbol from the banner is “long overdue.”

“The battle for a better Mississippi does not end with the removal of the flag, and we should work in concert to make other positive changes in the interest of all of our people,” said Winter, a Democrat who was governor from 1980 until 1984.

Democratic state Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville, who is African American, said the state deserves a flag to make all people proud. “Today is a history-making day in the state of Mississippi,” Simmons told colleagues. “Let’s vote today for the Mississippi of tomorrow.”

Eutaw City Council approves ordinance for wearing face masks in public to reduce spread of coronavirus

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

After a contentious debate, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2, at its regular meeting on June 23, to support an ordinance requiring people to wear masks when they are in public in the city. The ordinance was supported by Mayor Steele and Councilmembers: Latasha Johnson, Bennie Abrams and LaJeffrey Carpenter; it was opposed by Joe Lee Powell and Sheila Smith.
Mayor Steele argued, “We are passing this ordinance to encourage people to protect themselves and others from spreading the virus. Just like the ordinance to prohibit larger group gatherings, we are going to limit enforcement efforts, but we want people to know the value and benefits of face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus. We want our citizens to respect each other and care for their health.”
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson said, “Based on my experience as a nurse, I know that face coverings will help save lives. Other cities in Alabama, like Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, have adopted similar ordinances on masks and we should do this in Eutaw, to protect our people.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell argued, “ We do not know if masks are really effective in stopping COVID-19. This is an unfair requirement to impose on people. We are asking poor people to buy face coverings. We should use some of the $147,000 we received in CARES money from the State of Alabama to provide masks, if we pass this ordinance.”
Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter said, “ I have been hospitalized for several weeks with COVID, so I know it’s serious impact. If we allow people to get a warning ticket for their first offense and then start fines, I will vote for the ordinance.”
The ordinance was amended with Carpenter’s suggested change and approved by a vote of 4 to 2.
The Mayor proposed another ordinance to prohibit electronic bingo gaming within the city limits of Eutaw. He said that he had learned that a group was exploring the use of the closed gas station across from the Love’s Truckstop for a bingo parlor and did not feel this was a good idea.

Under questioning from the Council members, the Mayor did not reveal the identity of the group or whether they had a licensee to operate bingo in Greene County. The Council voted to table this matter until more information was available.
The Council had a lengthy discussion of putting out bids for storm shelters within the city. Councilman Powell argued that funds were available for two shelters, one in Branch Heights and one on Boligee Street. Councilwoman Johnson stated that ”The houses in Branch Heights are brick and better protected against storms. The shelters should be built in areas where people are living in trailer homes, that are most vulnerable to tornadoes and storms.”
Other council members said that five shelters were needed, one in each district. Mayor Steele said he was seeking Federal funds from FEMA and other agencies for storm shelters. Councilwoman Smith suggested using the old National Guard Armory as a storm shelter but others said it would need to be extensively fortified to serve as a shelter.
The Council approved a motion by Powell and Carpenter, “to bid out storm shelters, with at least two, one in Branch Heights and on Boligee Street, utilizing existing funds in the Branch Heights, Capital Improvements account and other accounts of the city.”

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

• Selected Mattie Atkins, former Circuit Clerk, to be Elections Manager for the August Municipal Elections. The qualifying fees were set at $50 for Mayor and $25 for City Council candidates.

• Passed a Memorial Resolution honoring James (Jamie) Oliver Banks II, who recently died, for his contributions to the city as the owner of Banks and Company and his role in selling the land to Love’s for the location of their truckstop.

• Forwarded a number of claims against the City, most from residents of Raintree Apartments about sewage problems, to the City Attorney and insurance company for resolution.

• Agreed to restore the speed bums in King Village, now that the streets are repaved.

• Advertise for bids to repave M& M Drive.

• Tabled a resolution for hazard pay bonuses for all city employees until the Council could get more clarity from the State of Alabama on the use of $147,000 in CARES funds awarded to the City for the coronavirus pandemic.

• Approved payment of bills by the City based on funds available.

• Heard a report from Mayor Steele that the project to extend sewage to the Love’s Truckstop was successfully completed and closed.

• Mayor Steele reported that the Streetscape Project I, with ALDOT funding, to improve the sidewalks and lighting on the outside of the Old Courthouse Square was still moving forward. There were some concerns raised by the Alabama Historic Society in approving the plans but these issues are being resolved by the project engineer. The Mayor said that construction on this project should begin in three to four months.

• Concerns were raised by Council members about various roads and streets in the city in need of repair due to storm erosion and washouts. Mayor Steele said he was working on restoring FEMA funding for these repairs.

The Eutaw City Council set its next meeting for Wednesday, July 15, 2020, at 6:00 PM at the Carver School gym to accommodate more public visitors in a setting where there is room for social distancing due to the pandemic.