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.

Newswire: White House says $44 Billion still available to avoid evictions

By: Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Editor Note: At press time, the CDC extended the eviction moratorium until October 3, 2021.

House and Senate Democrats are looking to the White House to immediately act to stop evictions after the federal moratorium expired on July 31. But President Joe Biden said a recent Supreme Court ruling means the administration cannot unilaterally extend the moratorium.

For his part, the President has called on state and local governments to resolve the problem.

The White House said the American Rescue Plan provided $47 billion in rental assistance earlier this year, but states and localities have used just $3 billion.

“We as a country have never had a national infrastructure or national policy preventing avoidable evictions,” American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling responded in a White House briefing on Monday, August 2.

“State and local governments must do more to help,” Sperling asserted. It’s not currently known just how many Americans face eviction, but leaders in the House and Senate have urged the White House to act.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said she believes about 11 million families are affected. “As they have called upon the American people to mask up, to be vaccinated and to take other public health precautions, it is critical, in recognition of this urgency, that they extend the eviction moratorium,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated in an August 2 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Putting people on the streets contributes to the spread of the virus,” Pelosi wrote.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated that the administration had taken further action to prevent Americans from experiencing eviction. Psaki said nearly 33 percent of the country wouldn’t face eviction through August.

“Thanks to the bipartisan COVID relief act Congress passed in December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan the Biden administration enacted in March, state and local governments long ago received emergency rental assistance – a $46.5 billion plan to protect millions of Americans facing deep rental debt and potential eviction during the pandemic,” Psaki continued.

Some cities and states have “demonstrated their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need,” Psaki further insisted. “But even though funds began to be distributed in February by the Biden administration, too many states and cities have been too slow to act,” she determined.

Psaki continued: “There is no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans.

“This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted.

“No one in America should be evicted when federal funds are available, in the hands of state and local government, to pay back rent due.”

While Congresswoman Pelosi has asked President Biden to act, Psaki said he would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declared on June 29 that the CDC could not grant such an extension without clear and specific congressional authorization via new legislation,” Psaki said.

Because of the spread of the Delta variant, President Biden asked the CDC to consider executive action. The White House said he raised the prospect of a new, 30-day eviction moratorium focused on counties with high or substantial case rates.

Psaki said the temporary measure would spur states and localities to ramp up emergency rental assistance programs to full spend – allowing every landlord to collect the rent they are owed and ensuring no eligible family gets evicted.

“To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” Psaki stated.

Eutaw City Council approves raises for police and water department

Mayor Latasha Johnson, Council members and staff present check for $30,000 to support E-911 dispatch and other emergency services. Funds came from the City’s American Rescue Act funding.

At Tuesday night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting, the members went through an extensive agenda mostly distributing funds and buying necessary items with General Funds and special funds provided to the city under the American Rescue Plan passed by Democrats in Congress and signed by President Biden. Fiscal Advisor, Ralph Liverman reported that the City had raised $577,000 in General Fund revenues in nine months since the October 1st fiscal year had begun, compared with $525,000 in revenues forecast in the budget. “This means the city will earn additional revenues beyond what we budgeted and the Council can approve additional needed expenditures,” said Liverman. Liverman also reported that $800,914 in revenues from the City’s Water Department for nine months, ending June 30, 2021 was substantially greater than the budgeted amount and more than last year’s full collections. Liverman said Corey Martin, Water Department Supervisor had corrected problems with meters and leaks, raised collections, and secured a license as a sewer operator as well as having a water operator’s license, required to operate the city’s systems. At the Mayor’s suggestion, Liverman recommended that the Council approve a raise of $4.00 an hour for Corey Martin. The Council approved the raised based on the recommendation. It was noted at the end of September 2021, the city would no longer have to pay another contracted company $1,900 for supervising the sewer system, since Martin’s new sewage license would qualify him to play this role. The Mayor asked that the Council approve a $1.00 an hour raise for all police officers which would raise the minimum pay for certified officers to $15.00 an hour. Chief Tommy Johnson commented, “This rate of pay is still low in comparison with other cities, like Moundville and Linden who are paying $17 an hour. Some cities like Demopolis are offering a $5,000 signing bonus. Councilwoman Jacqueline Stewart said she supported a pay raise but it should be based on an evaluation of the individual officer’s work record. “Some officers may deserve more than a $1.00 an hour raise and some less,” she said. Mayor Johnson said let’s give this raise, because it is in the budget already and look again in six months to get an evaluation of all police officers for additional adjustments in pay. The Council and mayor unanimously approved this pay raise for the police. The Eutaw Council also approved spending $97,208 for a well improvement telemetry program to put all wells on a digitally monitored system instead of using a telephonic warning system, which does not provide the information on a as detailed or timely basis. They approved $3,483 a year for the On-Solve Community Notification System, to inform residents of emergencies and problems with the city utilities. They also approved $21,175 for new software for bookkeeping, cemetery maintenance and business licenses; $8,896 for purchase of body cameras for the police; and $1, 980 for replacement of the light fixtures in the City Council meeting chamber. Most of these expenditures will be paid by the American Rescue Plan funds or from the Capital Improvement budget. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

•Approved a resolution to set up a Water Department Revenue Account and ending the Water Deposit Account, since there are no records of water deposits paid. If a resident can produce a receipt for a water deposit they will be reimbursed. New water customers will be required to pay a one-time $100 water connection and account fee. •Adopted a written Water Leak and Bill Dispute Policy.

•Approved several members of the staff to attend an Alabama Rural Water Training in Tuscaloosa on July 15, 2021

•Approved a resolution to set up a bank account for currency seized by police in raids and arrests.

•Approved the creation of a police sub-station at the Robert H. Young Community Center (old Carver School). •Approved paying bills. •Approved a contribution of $30,000 to support E-911.

Newswire : Monthly child tax credit payments start July 15. Here’s what parents need to know

Black family eligible for Child Tax Credit Good news for parents: Monthly payments through the new federal enhanced child tax credit will begin July 15. The credit will go to roughly 39 million households with about 65 million children, or 88% of children in the U.S., according to the IRS. The expanded credit was established in the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. In 2021, the maximum enhanced child tax credit is $3,600 for children younger than age 6 and $3,000 for those between 6 and 17. Those payments will be sent out as an advance on 2021 taxes in monthly installments that could be as much as $300 per month for younger children and $250 per month for older ones. The credit is per child in each household, meaning a family with three children ages 4, 8 and 12, for example, could receive up to $800 on a monthly basis (A $300 credit for the 4-year-old, and $250 each for the older kids.) “For working families with children, this tax cut sends a clear message: Help is here,” said President Joe Biden in a Monday statement. Here’s what families need to know ahead of the July 15 start. Who qualifies for the maximum credit? Most American families qualify for some amount of money through the child tax credit. The full credit is available to married couples with children filing jointly with adjusted gross income less than $150,000, or $75,000 for individuals. The enhanced tax credit will phase out for taxpayers who make more money and cease for individuals earning $95,000 and married couples earning $170,000 filing jointly. Taxpayers who make more than that will still be eligible for the regular child tax credit, which is $2,000 per child under age 17 for families making less than $200,000 annually, or $400,000 for married couples. Most families eligible to receive the payments don’t have to do anything right now, according to the IRS. The agency will use the information filed on 2020 tax returns first to determine eligibility and will notify taxpayers, Ken Corbin, commissioner of the IRS’ Wage and Investment Division, during a Friday tax conference. For those who haven’t filed 2020 taxes, the IRS will use 2019 returns. The IRS is also working to make a portal available for non-filers to submit their information and receive the credit. The agency also plans on making an additional portal for taxpayers to submit other changes going forward, such as updating family information if there’s a change in custody, which parent is claiming the child and credit or if you have a child during the year. How will payments be sent? As with the stimulus checks sent out by the IRS earlier this year and last, most of the monthly child tax credit payments will be sent by direct deposit — some 80% of those eligible will get the money this way, according to the agency. If the IRS has direct deposit information on your tax return, it’s likely this is how you’ll receive the monthly credit. If you don’t have direct deposit, the IRS will also be sending out paper checks and debit cards to some families. When will future payments be sent? The IRS said that future payments will be made on the 15th of each month, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, at which point the money will be sent on the closest business day. Families can plan their budgets around receiving the payment mid-month, the IRS said. So far, the monthly payments are only scheduled to continue through the end of 2021. Families will receive the second half of the credit when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. But that could change — President Biden has suggested making the enhanced credit available through 2025, and other Democrats want to make it a permanent benefit. Can I opt out? What happens if I do? Families can opt out of receiving the monthly payments for the credit through an IRS portal. Those who do this won’t get the monthly amounts but will still receive the full credit they are eligible for when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. Some families may choose this route because they don’t need the monthly payments immediately or prefer to get a large lump sum of money back from the IRS as a tax refund, said Elaine Maag, a principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center “There’s evidence that shows that some people really like getting that large tax refund, and can use it as an opportunity to purchase a large household item like a refrigerator or put together first and last month’s rent so they can move,” she said. To see how much you could expect to receive, personal finance website Grow created a calculator that factors in your filing status, annual income and the number of dependents you have.