As of May 20, 2020, at 9:00 AM Alabama had 12,701 confirmed cases of
coronavirus with 508 deaths Greene County had 86 confirmed cases with 4 deaths
The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on May 12, 2020. The meeting with full attendance met at the Carver School gymnasium to allow for property social distancing of Council members and the audience. Most of the City Council meeting was devoted to a continuing discussion of the need to correct problems of water meters, computers and software to read the meters, conformity in water billing and making sure that the water was generating sufficient revenues to support the City budget. The City Council reaffirmed its decision by a 4 to 1 vote to remove Mayor Steele as Superintendent of the Water System, however, there was dissension relative to taking the next steps to correct the problems in the Water Department. Council members, led by Sheila Smith and LaTosha Johnson, want to declare an emergency in the Water Department and contract with a company, headed by Kathy Horne, to come in and correct the management and billing problems. Horne’s firm and the Alabama Rural Water Association presented a report to the City Council in February recommending changes to improve the city’s water system.Mayor Steele insists that although he is no longer Superintendent of the Water Department, as Mayor he still has day-to-day supervision of the water system. He says that he is reluctant to bring in consultants to correct problems that he says have already been resolved. The Mayor says that the current corrected water bills that have been sent to residents will generate an additional $30,000 in revenues for the city. He also says 90 of the new digital water meters have been reinstalled properly or replaced. City attorney, Zane Willingham, backed the Mayor and said if the Council wants to bring in consultants, they must advertise and bid out these services under the laws governing municipalities like the City of Eutaw. The City Council voted to bid out a contract for management of the water system, however, at press time the Democrat has received no legal notice to print soliciting bids for management of the water system. The Council also discussed the need to build more storm shelters to protect the residents of the city from storms and tornados. Councilman Joe Powell brought some cost estimates for shelters. There was a discussion of building shelters in different sections of the City with grants from FEMA. The Council voted to table the discussion of shelters until electronic bingo resumes operations, after the coronavirus, to provide matching funds for the construction of shelters. In other business, the Eutaw City Council: • approved a resolution honoring first responders and frontline health care workers, scheduled for May 14, 2020; • approved a resolution supporting the renovation of Elmwood Manor; • approved a “Back to School – Sales Tax Holiday”, scheduled for July 14-19, 2020; • agreed to pave M & M Drive as soon as funds are available; • discussed pending insurance claims; • requested a list of all purchases made by the City, since the beginning of 2020, to determine if supplies are adequate; • discussed street washouts in the City and how to contract, with FEMA funding for their repair.
At the end of a long and raucous meeting, filled with arguments and motions to table issues, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to take $200,000 from an account earmarked for Branch Heights Roads to pay necessary and accumulated bills for the city. Councilmembers: Latasha Johnson, Benny Abrams, Joe Lee Powell and Mayor Steele voted in favor while Councilmembers: Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voted against.
The City of Eutaw utilized $500,000 earlier this year from its gas tax accounts to resurface the roads in Branch Heights and place speed-bumps where needed. The Mayor said these funds were now needed to pay accumulated bills for needed items, like chemicals to treat the city water, repair costs for city equipment, and other expenses where vendors are threatening to cut the city off for non-payment of past bills.
City Attorney, Zane Willingham, said that he could find nothing in the Greene County Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing bingo that restricts or earmarks the use of funds. The Sheriff’s bingo rules and the City Council’s decision to place funds in ‘earmarked accounts’ was a policy decision that could be changed by the Eutaw City Council that initially placed restrictions on the funds but now needs them for other purposes.
Mayor Steele said the city’s problems with finances are because the city tax base has not expanded over the past thirty years. “The opening of the Love’s Truck and Travel Center in October 2019, will help to employ more people and expand our sales and fuel tax revenues. But we will need more economic expansion to fully cover the costs of city services and operations.”
The City Council also agreed to purchase a new truck (estimated cost -$35,000) and a new tractor (estimated cost $20,000) for the city street department, from the gasoline tax funds.
The Council received a report from Rob Pearson, with Mason and Gardner Accountants, who presented a draft report of budgets for the City General Fund and Water Department. He said that both budgets showed a deficit with expenses exceeding revenues. After many questions from Councilmembers it was agreed to hold a more detailed discussion of the budgets at a work session to be held on the third Tuesday in September.
Mayor Steele reported that the Alabama Rural Water Services had visited and reviewed the city’s water system including the new meters, softwear and billing systems. They found 294 problems and have corrected 200 of them. “They plan to be back soon to correct the remaining accounts and get the system operating properly,” said Steele.
The Council tabled a number of controversial issues that come up regularly at meetings, such as the policy not to accept cash, undercover tags on city vehicles, use of city facilities for meetings and activities of non-city agencies and organizations, drainage repairs on private property, salary increases for staff, disposition of the Assistant Police Chief and others.
Shown Back Row L to R: Councilpersons LaTasha Johnson, Bennie Abrams, Joe L. Powell, Sheila Smith and LaJeffery Carpenter. Front Row L to R: Girl Scouts Madisyn Harris, India Duncan, Troop Leader Miriam Leftwich, Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele, Girl Scouts Diamond White and Mackenzie Harris
The Eutaw City Council, at its February 27, 2018 meeting presented a proclamation honoring local Girl Scout Troop 408 for National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend. The Proclamation stated that the City of Eutaw proclaims the week of February 23-25 as National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend. Members of Girl Scout Troop 408, with their troop leader Miriam Leftwich were present. Leftwich announced that there were boxes of cookies for sale. Following the presentation, Girl Scout Diamond White thanked the city for its continued support of Girl Scouts.
In other business, the council approved a liquor license for John’s club on Main Street, with councilpersons Sheila Smith and LaJeffery Carpenter abstaining. The council approved the $4,000 bid for demolition of a dwelling at 409 Tuscaloosa Street.
At its meeting on February 13, 2018, the Eutaw City Council approved a liquor license for Chuck Wagon which will be moving to a new location in West End from its current space on the Prairie Avenue side of the Courthouse Square.
At the request of Greene County Health Services, the council approved the use of the former National Guard Armory as an alternative location in the event of a natural disaster. At the February 13th meeting, the Council approved use of the National Guard Armory for the non-profit ANSC’s Black & White Heritage Ball.
The council approved payment of bills, although the clerk was unable to print the documents for the council due to technical difficulties.
The council approved a request from the local Boy Scout Troop to use the city’s property on Boligee and Washington Streets for an Easter Carnival.
In his reports to the council, Mayor Steele stated that the power pole on Morrow Street will be removed by next week. At the prior meeting, Mayor Steele announced that the new water tank was cleaned, filled and placed on line as part of the City’s enhanced water system. He also stated that the grass in the cemeteries is ready to be cut, but the workers are waiting for a break in the rain.
At the first meeting of the month, the Council approved adding the new City Clerk as a signatory on the bank account to assist with paying bills. The Council authorized payment of February bills and claims on hand at that time.
Councilwoman Johnson noted that there are still vehicles illegally parked on Lock 7 Road. Mayor Steele said these will be towed and the owners will be fined. The Councilwoman Smith said the caution light on Boligee St. was still not working.
Councilman Carpenter requested that the council and Mayor set a date to update the City’s Handbook. The body agreed to March 21 at 5:30 pm, to begin the process.
City Attorney, Ken Aycock, presented a draft of the city’s proposed Public Records Request Policy. He recommended that the council consider charging for staff time and for copying regarding request for public records.