Eutaw City Council continues to improve water system management; extends mask requirements for another 30 days

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on May 25, 2021. Mayor Latasha Johnson, all Council members and the City Clerk and Assistant Clerk were present. After approval of the past minutes, the Council approved extending its mask mandate for 30 more days until the Council last meeting, on the fourth Tuesday in June. This mask mandate is an additional protection for people who have not been vaccinated yet for the coronavirus. The CDC has recommended that people who have been vaccinated do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings and only need to wear a mask indoors when there are large crowds, like at a sports stadium. Persons who have not been vaccinated are urge to continue wearing masks in all settings until they are vaccinated. The Council approved a spending limit for the mayor to sign checks up to $5,000 between meetings for emergency purposes. The Council also authorized a credit card for her to use to make necessary purchases. The $5.000 emergency spending limit applies to both checks and credit card purchases, added together for use to handle emergency needs between meetings. The Council heard a report from Corey Martin, Certified Water Operator that he was continuing to make improvements in the city water system. 90 accounts of persons owing more than $500 were disconnected for non- payment. Martin says about half of these persons started paying and had water services restored. In April there were 661 accounts owing $223,602 and by the May 25 meeting there were only 233 accounts owing $97,088. Over one hundred accounts were closed due to vacancies (people moving away), final bills and inactive accounts. In the six-month period from October 1 through May 25, the City Water Department took in $772,853 from current and past due water customers. This compares with total revenue from water of $585,592 for the entire past fiscal year. Mayor Johnson announced that Corey Martin had passed the state examination to be a certified sewer operator to add to his water credentials.The Council heard a report from Ralph Liverman, financial consultant that would rename prior bank accounts for new purposes and open new accounts as needed for city business. He recommended that all payments for water, sewer and garbage be deposited in a Utility Collection Account. Then the water funds be placed in a Water Account, sewer funds in a sewer account and garbage funds in the General Funds Account. Liverman also suggested a new Water Tank Maintenance account for accumulating funds for water tank repairs and repainting since the City discontinued its contract with the Suez Construction Company for tank maintenance. Councilwomen Valerie Watkins moved to table these banking account changes until a working session at which the requested changes could be thoroughly explained so all the council members would understand the changes. This motion to table was approved. In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved window tinting, stripping, radios and radar equipment for new police cars purchased by the city for the Police Department.

• Approved placing the names of the Mayor and Police Chief on record for a Safety Deposit Box for the City in Merchants and Farmers Bank, to hold certain valuable items for the city in the course of official business.

• Approved transfer of funds from the Eutaw Airport Grant Account to the Eutaw Airport Authority, so they can be used in the enhancement and re-opening of the airport for commercial use.

• Approved use of the Robert H. Young Civic Center (old Carver School) for a Walgreen’s and 100 Black Women of Tuscaloosa sponsored COVID-19 vaccination drive on June 7 and 17, 2021. • Approved the use of Merchants and Farmers Bank for check drafting. •

Approved participation in a summer training conference for the Chief of Police. The Council had a discussion about payment of bills and then approved payment of all bills recommended for payment by the Mayor and City Clerks. The mayor said that she had scheduled a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to discuss and negotiate the funds owed for back taxes, interest and penalties to satisfy a lien placed against the City by IRS. “ I am determined to pay off this IRS lien and I will use the Special Branch Heights Road Fund monies, generated from bingo, since we have repaired the roads in Branch Heights with other funds and we need to pay off this lien,” said Mayor Johnson.

Eutaw City Council approves Water Operations and Policy Manual; First Responders Parade for June 17

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on May 11, following a detailed work session on May 7 and adopted a City Utility Operations Policy and Procedure Manual. Corey Martin, City of Eutaw Certified Water Operator presented the Council with the fifty-page manual spelling out in detail the policies and operations of the water, sewer and garbage collection systems for the City of Eutaw. Martin explained that the manual was a living document explaining how the city utility departments would operate, deal with the public and report to state and Federal regulatory authorities. Martin asked the City Council to approve May 17 as the “cut off date” to begin shutting off water to customers that have not paid on outstanding water bills. At its December meeting, the Eutaw City Council approved a five-month period for people to settle outstanding unpaid water bills. The Mayor and Water Department were allowed to negotiate with customers to reduce past balances down by as much as 80%, to 20% of past due balance, provided that the customer worked out a payment arrangement on the reduced past-due balance and kept new monthly payments current. Martin said the City agreed to these payment agreements in good faith and as a way to clear up past indebtedness and get the system’s billing up to date. Some people came in and signed agreements to pay outstanding water bills, which included charges for sewer and garbage collection. Other customers did not. Some customers who signed agreements and got their past due balances reduced did not pay on their agreements. Martin asked the City to approve May 17 as the date to begin cutting off water to those who did not make agreements to pay back balances or did not honor their agreements. “We have sent people notification letters of their overdue balances and told them that a cut off day is coming if they do not pay. We will start on May 17, to shut off water to those with the highest outstanding balances,” said Martin. The City Council approved the utility shut off payment deadline of May 17, 2021. Eutaw Chief of Police, Tommy Johnson asked the City Council to endorse and support a First Responders Parade in Eutaw on Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM. Chief Johnson has invited first responders from neighboring communities including: Livingston, York, Greensboro, Moundville, Aliceville, Pickensville, Demopolis, Linden, Tuscaloosa and others to join Eutaw and Greene County first responders on that day as a tribute to their work during the pandemic and year-round. Johnson said, “ I want to show the residents that we are not just interested in putting people in jail but to contribute to the community and celebrate our neighboring first responders.” In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved on-line payments for City Clerk, Municipal Court and Police Department; in addition to the Water Department which previously had been approved for and is receiving on-line payments.

• Approved the 2021 CCR – Water Department Report for submission to ADEM.

• Approved cancellation of contract with SUEZ/Utility Service for servicing and painting the city’s water wells and water towers. This contract for over $5,000 a month will be replaced by a monthly contribution to a reserve fund for well service and maintenance expenses.

• Approved a resolution re-naming bank accounts for the repayment of the USDA Rural Development Loan for the water system.

• Approved a resolution to name new City Clerk, ShaKelvia Spencer to all city bank accounts and the removal of former Clerk, Kathy Bir, from those accounts.

• Approval of a resolution naming Chief Tommy Johnson as a signatory on the DARE’s bank account.

• Approved a plan by the T. S. Police League to employ young people for the summer to assist the city; and allow the T. S. Police League to use the Carver School gymnasium to screen and train youth for the summer program.

• Received a report from Mayor Latasha Johnson on her work with the County Commission and Industrial Development Authority for a feasibility study for a new hotel to be built, near the Love’s Truckstop at Exit 40 on the Interstate. The GCIDA is contracting for the study, which will cost approximately $10,000, with the expense to be split by the three involved entities. The feasibility study is needed to attract investors and a hospitality company to build a new facility in Greene County.

• Received a report from City Engineer Babbs on the GIS mapping project for underground utilities and his work to review and revise the ordinance for building codes and building permits, which will be submitted to the Council for future approval. •Agreed to pay bills as submitted by the Mayor.

Eutaw City Council deals with water, budget and street repairs

At its regular meeting on February 23, 2021, the Eutaw City Council continued grappling with problems of the water system, street repairs and assembling a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began October 1, 2020.
The Council heard from Corey Martin, the full time Water System Operator, recently hired to help supervise and correct the physical and billing problems of the Eutaw city water system. Martin reported that for the four months, October 2020 to January 2021, the city was pumping 30 million gallons of water a month but only billing for thirty per cent of this amount. There was a 70% loss to leaks, incorrect billing, meters not working properly and not reporting properly to the computer billing system and pother problems.
Martin stated his job was to work together with Terry Tyson, an engineering consultant retained by the City to audit the water meters, and the Water Department staff to correct leaks, faulty water meters, missing water meters, water meters that are not properly tied into the computerized billing system. Martin said, “We have 1,400 water customers and we will visit every meter, correct the problems and should have the system working correctly in two to three months.”
Martin as a certified water operator will also be able to do monthly sampling for testing the city’s water for quality and environmental contamination required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). This will avoid compliance issues that Eutaw has experienced recently. Water customers received a letter concerning compliance with testing requirements this past summer, which has now been corrected.
Attorney Ralph Liverman, financial consultant to the City Council presented members with his third draft budget for the City, which details projected revenues and expenses for six city funds including: The General Fund, Water and Sewer Fund, 7-Cent Gas Tax Fund, 4-Cent Gas Tax Fund, Special Street Fund, and a Capital Improvements Fund, which account for $3.5 million a year. The Council agreed to hold a Work Session on March 3rd to review and discuss this budget in more detail. It should be noted that Mayor Latasha Johnson made a campaign promise to develop a budget for the City, which did not have one for many years. Mayor Johnson reported on the Streetscape grant (TAPNU-TAI) for the City from the Alabama Department of Transportation. The grant provides $640,000 in Federal funds and $160,000 in local matching, plus local responsibility for engineering cost, for repairs to the sidewalks, railings, lighting and landscaping of the outside of the Thomas Gilmore Square surrounding the historic old Courthouse in downtown Eutaw. There is a separate project for repairing the inside sidewalk of the Square.
The City of Eutaw, Greene County Commission and the Greene County Industrial Development Authority agreed to share in providing the $240,000 in matching funds and engineering for this project. The project has been delayed by the State Historical Commission review which questioned if the project would conform to the city’s designation under the National Historic Register. The project engineer has resolved the issue with the Historical Commission and the project can go forward, however, the city will be required to update its registration with the National Historic Registry, which may cost an additional $20 to $30,000 to complete. The Council voted to approve the expenditure of funds to update the National Historic Registry.
The Council approved the rental agreements for the CFRD and Liberty Tax for rental of space in the Robert H. Young Community Center, formerly the Carver Middle School. The Council also approved re-opening the Fitness Center in the Robert H. Young Community Center for a $20 a month membership fee and compliance with COVID-19 health guidelines and an insurance liability waiver by persons wishing to use the athletic equipment. The equipment was donated by Auburn Extension Services in past years to improve the health and fitness of community residents. A staff person was recently employed to take care of the facility who will also help to monitor the Fitness Center.
Tammy Holley of West Alabama Works, a workforce development agency, made a presentation of some of the services her agency offers and requested a longer session with the council to fully explain the services of her agency. The Council agreed to her request at a future work session, to be scheduled.
In other business, the Eutaw City Council:
• Approved a resolution to provide the Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp access to all the city’s email accounts and passwords to handle business in the absence of city employees.
• Approved the solicitation of bids to resurface the City’s portion of the Lower Gainesville Road and Choctaw Road.
• Heard concerns from Council member Valerie Watkins for the installation of speed bumps on Roebuck Avenue to protect children in the area.
• Received a report from Mayor Johnson that the Police Department has set up a sub-station in King Village and is looking for female officers to augment its staff of 9 fulltime and 2 part-time officers overall.