Sheriff Joe Benison meets with Hospital Board to discuss bingo funds

Sheriff- Hostil

L to R: GCHS Board members: Margaret Bir, Sheriff Benison, Lucy Spann, Elmore Patterson, Jasmine Smith, Pinnia Hines, Shirley Edwards and Rosemary Edwards. Not shown are Eddie Austin and John Zippert who also attended the meeting.

Greene County Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison, together with his executive assistant and bingo clerks, met with the Greene County Health System (GCHS) Board of Directors as part of their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with the Board their concerns over the status of payments from electronic bingo parlors to the GCHS, which operates the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and home health services.
On June 2, 2016, Sheriff Benison adopted a new rule for bingo which stipulated that the Greene County Hospital was to receive a fee of 4% of the amount paid to vendors, who provide bingo machines, to be paid to the hospital for providing health care services to the residents of Greene County.

The Sheriff adopted this rule change as a way to share some of the revenues generated by electronic bingo, under Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, with the Greene County Health Care System.
Based upon estimates from the bingo clerks, Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System projected receiving $3,500 per month from each of the four operating bingo parlors as of June 2016. This would total $14,000 per month or $168,000 per year.

The GCHS Board informed the Sheriff that since adoption of the rule in June 2016, the health facilities have not received these 4% fees from the vendors. The GCHS has received an average of $5,133 per month for the hospital and $ 1,104 per month for the residential care center (nursing home). These averages include a one-time payment of $30,000 from Greenetrack and smaller donations as a sub-charity from all of the bingo operation. The Anchor Group, the charity operating the River’s Edge Bingo facility is the only operation that has been paying the 4% vendors fee under the Sheriff’s rules.
Sheriff Benison said that he understood the Greene County Health System’s concerns with the shortfall in the 4% vendors fee.
He said that he wanted to discuss this with the bingo operators, including the Palace Bingo, a new electronic bingo hall at the Knoxville Exit on Interstate 20/59. He said that after he consults with the bingo operators that he and his clerks would report back to the GCHS Board of Directors.
Elmore Patterson thanked the Sheriff for attending the meeting and said, “Health care is critical to Greene County. The GCHS is providing quality health care to residents of Greene County and surrounding areas. I just reported to the Board that we had an overall operating loss of $538,000 for the first six months of this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2016. This loss matches the half a million dollars of uncompensated care that the GCHS provided to Greene County citizens, during the same time period, with limited incomes who lack insurance or other health care payers. We are looking to electronic bingo, the county government and others sources to help us cover our deficit which basically comes from serving the people of our county who are poor and not covered by any health insurance.”
All of the GCHS Board members also thanked the Sheriff for coming and listening to the concerns of the community. The members said they hoped to hear some positive response from the bingo establishments and the Sheriff in the coming weeks.

Advocates urge a “NO” vote Black Warrior EMC sends out package of revised by-laws for a membership vote by May 1

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

BWEMC

Members of the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation, as of February 24, 2017 have received a package of materials, including a revised set of By-laws, a summary of the changes and a mail ballot to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on all of the changes in one vote.
Members have contacted the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which has been sponsoring “a co-op democracy project” focused on Black Warrior, to ask how they should vote on these by-law changes. Black Warrior members have also contacted the Greene County Democrat and other trusted community organizations to ask for advice on this by-law package.
If you receive your electric power from Black Warrior EMC you are a “member” of the cooperative. Black Warrior has 26,000 members in the rural parts of many of the western Alabama Black Belt counties including Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Choctaw, Marengo, Tuscaloosa and others.
If you paid your deposit and have a Black Power Electric meter, you are a member of the “electric membership corporation” or cooperative and you have a vote on major issues facing the cooperative, like election of the board of directors, changing the by-laws and other important issues.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee Community in Greene County said, “I was surprised to receive this 24 page set of new by-laws in the mail and a ballot to vote, without more explanations, without a meeting scheduled to explain these changes. I have an education but I feel you need to be a lawyer or other professional expert to fully understand this document and make an informed and intelligent vote on it.”

Carter, who is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to make Black Warrior’s Board and Management more transparent, accountable and democratic, also said, “ I am happy to see these by-laws because they answer many questions the members have been raising with Black Warrior, for a number of years, but they also raise new questions about additional discretionary powers granted to the co-op’s Board of Directors, which may adversely affect the members.
“We need more time and a series of meetings in the Black Warrior EMC service area to explain these changes and allow for the members to understand what they are voting on. We are also asked to vote up or down on the whole package in one vote even if we disagree with some of the specific changes or would like to add other changes to make the cooperative more democratic and responsive to its members.”
Adriauna Davis, a Community Outreach Worker with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, who has been meeting with BWEMC members to discuss and strategize ways to make the power provider more democratic and responsible to its members, said, “We plan to go to court, under our existing lawsuit, and stop this by-law mail ballot until a membership meeting or district membership meetings are held to explain these new by-laws and the changes.”
“In the meantime, we are urging BWEMC members to vote “NO” on the ballot and write in that, “ I do not understand all of these by-law changes and want a meeting to understand and discuss these changes,” said Davis.
Davis points out that the current BWEMC By-laws require a membership meeting to amend the by-laws. The Board and Management, who developed and sent out the new ballot revisions, say their effort is legal under new provisions of the Electric Cooperative Statute of Alabama, which allow for a mail ballot.
Marcus Bernard, Director of the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama said, “We received about 100 phone calls last week from BWEMC members who were mailed the by-laws package. They say that they do not understand what to do. Many do not fully understand that they are members and are entitled to vote on the by-laws and other matters. We are recommending a “NO” vote until there are educational meetings to explain the changes to members.”
Bernard pointed out that the BWEMC was founded in 1938 and has not revised its by-laws in 66 years since 1950. The co-op has not had an official Annual Meeting of Members to elect the co-op’s board of directors during this same period. Since their have not been official membership meetings, with the required quorum of 5% (1,300 members) the board has been allowed to perpetuate itself without meaningful input from the members.
The Democrat will be following this story closely in coming weeks and will have more articles and opinion pieces on these important issues.

Superintendent Carter gives update on school initiatives

At the regular school board meeting held Monday, April 17, 2017, Superintendent Dr. James Carter, Sr. presented an update on some of the initiatives introduced this current school year. His report included the following summaries:
Eutaw Primary: The Eutaw Primary School Chess Club provides students an introduction to the game of chess. Students are able to view videos on playing chess. Dr. Carter pointed out that this is a significant approach to teaching critical thinking skills in young students.
School wide action plans in the areas of reading and mathematics have been developed and are in the implementation phase. All faculty/staff members are placing greater emphasis on phonemic awareness, fluency, writing, and open ended/constructive responses in the area of reading. All faculty/staff members are placing greater emphasis on problem solving and constructive response in the area of Mathematics.
Progress monitoring of goals is consistently taking place. The pre-K department is currently focusing on phonemic awareness and preparing students for kindergarten skills that are covered on Dibels Next Assessment and the ACT Aspire Periodic Assessment.
Cursive writing has been incorporated into the curriculum for grades K-3. The infusion of Black History into all subject areas has been initiated.
Discipline Referrals are currently low.
The Eutaw Primary School Webpage is currently updated. Eutaw Primary School has made great improvement in area of parental involvement and culture. Club/organization days are being incorporated into the master schedule.
Robert Brown Middle School Grade 4-6: Mr. Henry Miles, Jr, has been designated chess master in training. Robert Brown Middle School students have been using a computer based website to learn the basics of chess by playing computer generated matches. Mr. Miles has already begun to build relationships with established Chess Programs in other parts of the state. These relationships are significant in developing a solid and competitive program.
Robert Brown Middle School webpage is an ongoing process and we are working to get all teachers’ pages up to date, with updating pictures and calendars. Several changes have been incorporated to update the page from Paramount to Robert Brown Middle – a work in progress.

Robert Brown Middle School Grade 7-8: Robert Brown Middle School is consistently reviewing data in order to drive instruction. Our students made gains/progress on the last ACT Periodical Assessment. 130 students showed increase out of 160. We celebrated by providing students with hotdogs, juice, and chips. We are continuing to focus on reading, informational text, reading across the content area, math blitz (basic math word problems, vocabulary and reading comprehension).
Teachers are using strategic teaching and best practices in the classroom. They are assessing students by using the format outlined for the ACT Aspire test. AMSTI has been working with our math and science teachers. Teachers are reviewing mastery and non-mastery of standards and providing me with documentation and deficiency reports. The teachers have the outlined expectations for curriculum and instruction.
In reporting other areas of progress, Superintendent Carter noted that referrals are down for this year. The 7th & 8th grade division webpage is up to date. The teachers are updating all information on their pages.
“It has been an awesome journey this year. I am excited to see all the new relationships with the students and teachers. My team does a great job with ensuring that all students are treated equitably. Teachers were able to provide me with feedback as it pertains to this year. All the feedback was of a positive nature. We continue to work together to solve problems and be proactive in all situations. The teachers have embraced all the expectations that were outlined in reference to curriculum/instruction, discipline, culture/climate and attendance. As we continue on this journey, I expect to see even more students and adults impacted in a positive way both academically and socially,” according to Carter.
Freshman Academy: There are currently 25 members of the freshman academy chess club. All member of the chess club are using mobile apps, which allows tutoring for students to learn the game of chess. Plans are being made to hold the first annual chess tournament in May, of this year in an effort to build interest in the game. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top finalists for participating, and to motivate them to do the same for the 2017-18 school year.
Greene County High School: The number of students earning honor roll status has continued to increase this year. There were more students recognized for honor roll during the second nine weeks. As a whole, students this year are more concerned with their academic progress. There is also an increase in the number of seniors that have benchmarked in various subtests of the ACT. The number of students receiving office referrals has shown a decline this year. Greene County High School has fewer students committing class II and class III infractions. Student morale and student participation in other extra-curricular activities may be the source of this improved school culture.
To date, this has been a very positive year for student behavior and achievement. We have made a lot of improvement in both areas. There are always areas that we want to continue to grow and improve.
Track and Field: The track team has competed in two track meets thus far. The meets were held at Greensboro High School. The girls relay team placed first in the 4×200. The girls relay team consists of three freshmen and one junior. There are three additional track meets scheduled for this month. They will be held in Demopolis, Greensboro, and Selma.
Softball: The softball team has only competed in 4 games thus far this year. They were doubleheaders at Greensboro and American Christian Academy. The team is young and determined. The team is now practicing in Branch Heights.
Baseball: The Greene County High School Baseball team has competed in 10 games this season. The team is 0-10 thus far but has continued to be competitive. There are 15 players on the team with most being underclassmen. There are only two seniors on the team. Greene County High School looks forward to continuous growth and success in this program.
Band: Greene County High School Band is scheduled to practice after school on Tuesday and Thursday of each week beginning Aril 11, 2017. Band camp is scheduled to run from July 24 – August 4, 2017.
The board approved the following personnel items:
Employment of Willie Wright as tutor and mentor at Greene County Learning Academy on as as need basis.
FMLA request for Raven Bryant, teacher at Robert Brown Middle School.
The board approved the following administrative service items recommended by the superintendent.
Greene County Board of Education Information Guide for Students and Parents.
Contract between the Greene County Board of Education and Marcheta B. Bedgood to provide assistance to CSFO on an as needed basis to prepare financial documents throughout the fiscal year
Contract between the Greene County Board of Education and Farrell Duncombe for mentoring services at Greene County High School.
National Writing Project’s College-Ready Writers Program Grant for the Greene County School System in collaboration with UAB Red Mountain Writing Project.
BackPack Meals/Secret Meals Program Sponsored by Tuscaloosa Food Bank and Greene County Board of Education (No Cost to GCBOE).
Field Trip Requests: Greene County Career Center – Bodies Exhibit and CNN Studio Tour in Atlanta, GA on April 24, 2017
Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. Katrina Sewell, CSFO.
Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
Instructional items approved by the board:
Summer School (Promotion) at Greene County High School, June 5 – 30, 2017.
Summer School (Enrichment) at Robert Brown Middle School and Eutaw Primary School, June 5 – 16, 2017.

Remember the Chibok girls of Nigeria

By Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.)
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Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla) speaks at podium during a candlelight vigil for the missing Chibok schoolgirls in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2016. Wilson was joined by several members of Congress and some of the schoolgirls that escaped and have relocated to the Washington D.C., metro area. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA Newswire)

Three years ago, Boko Haram terrorists burst into dormitory rooms at the Government Secondary School in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok and kidnapped nearly 300 girls simply because they dared to get an education. In the days leading up to anniversary of their kidnapping, there were plenty of headlines devoted to the “Chibok girls,” as these now young women are famously known. On April 14, 2017, we reached another sad milestone. Some of us paused to remember the anniversary of this horrific, ongoing tragedy. Soon the news reports will fade and the story of the still missing Chibok girls will slip once more to the backburner.
The 195 Chibok girls who haven’t been able to escape their captives or were not among the 21 released last October, are still the most compelling symbols of the Boko Haram insurgency, but we must never forget that the group has committed increasingly heinous acts in the past three years from which innumerable victims may never recover. Let me count the ways.
More than 2.6 million people are currently displaced across Nigeria and its neighbor nations in the Lake Chad region, and Nigeria is in the process of building a comprehensive orphanage to house approximately 8,000 children who’ve been separated from their parents. At least one million children have been forced out of school. Millions more Africans are at risk of starving to death and countless men, women and children all of ages, both Christians and Muslims, have been kidnapped, tortured, and/or killed.
It gets worse. In addition to engaging in the human trafficking of women, forcing them into sexual and domestic slavery, the insurgents also use children as suicide bombers. Even ISIS, to whom Boko Haram has pledged allegiance, has expressed concern that the group goes too far.
As a mother, a former educator, and indeed, a human being, I have felt heartbroken, shocked and angered by the daily horrors our West African sisters and brothers have been forced to endure. The actions of the world’s most deadly terrorist group have also emboldened me to use my voice and every resource available in the fight to ensure that the Chibok girls are not forgotten and to help eradicate Boko Haram and repair the damage it has caused.
I have traveled twice to Nigeria to meet with victims’ families and government officials and brought the #BringBackOurGirls movement to the United States. Each week that Congress is in session, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle participate in a “Wear Something Red Wednesday” social media campaign that helps maintain pressure on the Nigerian government to keep working to negotiate the release of the remaining Chibok girls and pull out all stops to defeat Boko Haram.
On December 14, 2016, President Barack Obama signed, into law, legislation that Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and I sponsored that directs the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense to jointly develop a five-year strategy to aid the Nigerian government, the Multinational Joint Task Force created to combat Boko Haram, and international partners who’ve offered their support to counter the regional threat the terrorists pose.
In a telephone conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in February, the two leaders pledged “to continue close coordination and cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria,” according to a readout from the White House. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also has reportedly praised the Multinational Joint Task Force’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram a “success story,” but while the terrorist group may be down, it is far from out.
On June 12, we will mark another milestone in this terrible saga. That is the day the State and Defense departments’ five-year plan is due. It also is the deadline for the director of National Intelligence to assess the willingness and capability of Nigeria and its regional partners to implement the strategies outlined. We must use our collective voice to ensure they don’t miss this urgent deadline.
By now you may be asking yourself why any of this should matter to African Americans who are fighting their own battles to close the economic and opportunity gaps that still exist here at home and to exercise fundamental rights like the right to vote. Some of you may have never even heard of the Chibok girls. But if we don’t, who will? If we don’t teach the world to acknowledge that Black lives matter across the globe, who will? Until then, it will continue to cry for victims of terrorism in European nations, the Middle East and even Russia, while African and African-American lives lost go ignored.
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and represents parts of northern Miami-Dade and southeast Broward counties. She serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. To learn more about Congresswoman Wilson’s work in Congress, please visit her Facebook and Twitter pages and congressional website.

America’s current civil rights climate the most dangerous in decades, activists, lawmakers say

By Jane Kennedy

 

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U. S. Rep. John Conyers surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. PHOTO: Courtesy/House.gov
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In a wide-ranging discussion on Capitol Hill among lawmakers, activists, policy experts and former Obama administration officials about the state of civil rights in the Trump administration, the consensus was unanimous that the current climate for civil rights is the most dangerous that has been experienced in decades.
The April 6 event was hosted by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary.
“Although the Trump presidential campaign promised changes that would benefit minorities in the areas of crime, equal justice, and economic equality, his political allies and surrogates have sent a different message that has served to heighten national divisions and anxiety,” said Conyers, the longest-serving member in the House, known as “the dean” of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The forum took place only a few days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would review all of the consent decrees that the Obama administration entered into with law enforcement agencies that had demonstrated and documented histories of abuses and misconduct.
“The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement agencies perform in keeping American communities safe,” the DOJ memo stated. In February, Sessions, who admittedly was unfamiliar with the details of the reports that led to decrees with police departments in Ferguson and Chicago, for example, nonetheless described them as “pretty anecdotal.”
Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a former assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department under President Obama, described the first 76 days of the Trump administration’s civil rights record as “harrowing,” which she said was being “charitable.”
Recalling the immense challenge of getting a consent decree to reform the Los Angeles Police Department in 2000, despite years of abuses that included beating a homeless woman, lying to judges, planting drugs on innocent people to secure convictions, racially based stops and assaulting citizens, she said that Sessions’ decision was a signal of the “low value” the new administration places on civil rights.
“It was only through federal involvement that conditions [in LA] materially improved and that provided the impetus for real change for communities that were desperately in need of it,” Lhamon said. “The one ray of hope remaining now is that the federal courts have to approve the end of consent decrees that have already been implemented.”
This week, U.S. District Judge James Bredar denied the Justice Department’s request to delay the implementation of a consent decree for the Baltimore Police Department.
“The administration consistently uses its signaling to demonstrate disregard for civil rights. When it announces that it will reconsider the value of police consent decrees, withdraws support for transgender students, slashes the [budgets of agencies] that protect civil rights, the administration unilaterally sends a chilling message that it not only is not striving to secure civil rights for all but is in fact striving to not be a federal partner in that effort.”
Roy Austin, former director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, delivered an equally pessimistic assessment. “In my humble opinion, the greatest current threat to civil rights in this great nation is this current administration. In record time [it] has already shown not simply a willingness to not defend civil rights, but it has shown an intent to violate civil rights, and at a minimum make it easier for others to violate civil rights. No marginalized, struggling, excluded, discriminated against, or protected individual or group is safe from what [it] has already done or appears to be planning to do,” Austin declared. “Everything that people have fought for, and that some have died for in recent decades, is at risk. Hopefully the will of the people, of representatives like you, and the courts will continue to ensure that the current administration cannot accomplish all that they desire.”
According to Austin, the Trump administration “could not move fast enough” to remove guidance that literally helps to save the lives of transgender individuals. In addition, he had harsh words for the White House’s “Muslim ban,” which in his view not only endorses religious discrimination but also diminishes public safety.
“When the federal government announces it will side with bigots and those with irrational fears, we all lose some of our humanity,” Austin said.
He also criticized the “orchestrated photo-op” that President Trump had with the leaders of the nation’s black college and university presidents in February. While the White House may have celebrated it as a successful meeting, Austin cautioned, the students who depend on and thrive at these historic institutions, must not be fooled by the administration’s false promises.
“Many of us in the Obama administration used to say that we wanted a nation where the color of your skin, the God you pray to, your ZIP code, or who you love did not determine your chances of success. It saddens me to see an administration that is trying to make these characteristics even more important and determinative,” Austin lamented.
Following eight years of near radio silence when it came to criticism of the White House to avoid publically finding fault with its first African-American occupant, the Congressional Black Caucus has been quite vocal in calling out actions by the current administration that members consider unjust. After its meeting last month with President Trump, the group announced plans to also meet with key members of his administration to find common ground and at least attempt to smooth out differences.
But given Session’s previous civil rights history during his time as a lawmaker and the record he is currently building at DOJ, the hope for common ground appears bleak. Said Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, “We may be seeing the most dangerous Department of Justice that we have seen in decades.”

Greene County Commission acts on County Engineer’s requests

At a routine meeting the Greene County Commission approved requests coming from Willie Branch, County Engineer, for sale of surplus property and vehicles as well as improvements to the William M. Branch Courthouse and Eutaw Activity Center.
The Greene County Commission approved the following requests from the County Engineer:
• declare equipment and materials, a pile of scrap metal, as surplus and eligible for sale;
• declare surplus and sell three dump trucks and one low-boy, for a guarantee of $526,000;
• purchase three dump trucks at $131,644 each and one low-boy for $114,989, to replace the ones sold. This arrangement allows the county to have new equipment for a small annual lease payment;
• approve placement of a sign by the Extension Service on the Eutaw Activity Center building;
• approve agreement with KDM to install 5 thermostats for the cost of $10,000 in the Courthouse and an annual contract of $4,600 to maintain the HVAC service in the Courthouse;
• approved agreement with ADS Security for the Eutaw Activity Center, at an installation cost of $1,098 and $49.95 a month for three years for the system; and
• approve travel for Highway Department Office Manager for training on June22-24, at Orange Beach, Alabama.
Paula Byrd, Chief Financial Officer gave the Commission a detailed financial report through the end of March, which is the six month period of the fiscal year which bean October 1, 2016. The report showed bank balances of $ 2,786,484 in Citizen Trust Bank and $2,172.444 in Merchants and Farmers Bank for a total of $4,958,929.
Another $684,146 in bond sinking funds are in the Bank of New York.
Ms. Byrd also reported on payment of bills and claims of $686,540 for February and that the total of expenses from all accounts were running at 44% of budget, which is below the 50% goal at the middle of the fiscal year.

The Commission also approved transfer of 1.96 acres, in the Eutaw Industrial Park area, to the Greene County Industrial Development Authority. The Authority plans to enter into agreements to make the land available to WestRock to expand their manufacturing facility and create new jobs.The Commission did not approve a request from the City of Eutaw to move a power pole from one corner to across the street.
The Greene County Commission approved the appointment of Jasmine Smith to the Greene County Hospital Board and Mattie Strode to the Greene County DHR Board. Both appointments were from District 2.
In the work session, preceding the regular meeting, the Commission heard from Marilyn Gibson, Chief Librarian, who asked the Commission to reconsider an appointment to the Library Board. She argued that the person that was replaced was very experienced and helpful in writing proposals to secure funds for the library. The Commissioners said they could not change an appointment but that the Library Board could give special status as an emeritas member, without a vote, to anyone they thought could assist and support them to make the library better for Greene County.

Eutaw City Council approves proclamation honoring E-911

Mayor Steele and Eutaw City Council members present proclamation to E911 staff and officials and new officer’s : Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Christopher Gregory

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the Eutaw City Council paid its March bills and claims, approved Good Friday as a holiday for the staff and approved a proclamation honoring the E-911 staff for National Public Safety Communications Week.
After taking these positive steps, the City Council and the Mayor began arguing about past issues and discussions.

The issue that precipitated the arguments was a motion by Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson to advertise in the newspaper for four weeks, the contents of a bill to be introduced in the State Legislature to change the selection process for members of the Board of Directors of the Eutaw Housing Authority to give the Council a role with the Mayor in appointing these board members.The Eutaw City Council, the Mayor and the city and county housing authority boards have been in an uproar for the past several months over who was properly appointed to the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and how to proceed with the merger of the city and county housing authorities.
Mayor Raymond Steele strenuously opposed the motion to advertise changes in the Alabama statute on the selection of members to a city housing authority. He said, “You are trying to take away powers given to me by the law, I am not trying to take away your powers as the City Council.”
Latasha Johnson replied that the purpose of her amendment was, “To share your role in appointing housing authority board members not to take away your authority.” She went on to say, “ In a way we are married for four years, the Council and you the Mayor and we need to learn how to work together.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell said he was concerned that the mayor seemed to want to have “a dictatorship over the City Council.” Powell indicated that he was still concerned that the Mayor would not accept documents that he provided showing that Veronica James was incorrectly removed from the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and should be reinstated.
Mayor Steele complained that the City Council was retaliating against him by proposing to change the legislation to share the power of appointing the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. The Council then voted 4 to 2 to approve advertisement of the bill proposed by Latosha Johnson. The Mayor and Councilman Bennie Abrams voted against the motion.
Mayor Steele raised the issue of revisiting the rules and procedures for community groups to use the National Guard Armory for meetings, social events and fundraisers. The mayor said that he would like to discuss his concerns about improving and maintaining the facility at the next City Council work-session scheduled for next Tuesday, April 18. Councilman Powell reminded him that community groups charging admission or raising funds at activities using the National Guard Armory needed to come before the City Council if they were seeking a waiver of the rental fees.
Mayor Steele said the air conditioning and heating system in the building needed to be updated and other improvements made to the building. The Council agreed that a community group that had reserved the Armory for a music concert on April 15 could proceed with their event.
Council members said that they approved payment of the bills and claims but wanted a better reporting of funds and a budget against which to approve expenditures in future meetings.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked about the status of enforcement of the vicious dogs ordinance. Mayor Steele said the Eutaw police were issuing summonses for people to register their animals and to see if sufficient space was available to keep the animals in the city. If the owners were not complying with the ordinance then the police were taking action to correct the problems with stray and vicious dogs.
Valerie Watkins, a resident in whose house there was a sewage back up asked when the City was going to make the repairs to her home. Mayor Steele said that he was working on the claims with the City’s insurance agent and would be able to respond soon.
In the public comment sessions, several citizens rose and spook to urge the Mayor and City Council to work more closely together.
David Spencer distributed a written letter to the Mayor and City Council members concerning his allegations of voter fraud in the October 2016 Municipal Election Runoff.