Eutaw Mayor and City Council tangle over bills and budget

At their regular Eutaw City Council meeting on September 25, 2018, Mayor Raymond Steele and City Council members once again questioned each other over outstanding bills and the need for a budget for the operations of the city. When asked by City Council members how he was determining which outstanding bills to pay, the Mayor said, “We use our best judgment and pay the most pressing bills which the Council has approved for payment. We have had no increase in our tax base in twenty or more years so we do not have enough tax and business revenue coming in to pay all of our bills.” Councilwoman Sheila Smith pressed the Mayor on the Waste Management garbage bills, “People in the city pay $15 a month on their water bills for garbage collection, yet we are three months behind ($48,000) in our payments to Waste Management for these services. Who is deciding how to use the monies paid for garbage collection to pay for other things?” inquired Smith. Councilman Latasha Johnson asked, “Why don’t we have a budget. The City of Eutaw needs a budget. The Council is in charge of the City’s finances but without information and a budget, we really don’t know how we are operating.” Mayor Steele responded, “The City has not had a budget since 2012 because of the problem with our revenue streams. “Our equipment is old and in need of constant replacement and repairs. I have been talking to the Sheriff about more bingo funds. I hope the Loves Travel Center will bring in new gas and sales tax revenues. We are doing our best to handle this difficult situation.” Councilwoman Johnson suggested that, “We should do a budget anyway to see where we are and agree on some priorities for spending our city funds.” Mayor Steele presented a contract for $448,500 from Central Asphalt Company of Tuscaloosa to repave the streets in Branch Heights with 1 and ½ inches of asphalt. “This is not a permanent solution to the problems of Branch Heights roads and streets but it will help, he said.” The Mayor asked that the Council, City Attorney and Engineer study the proposal so it can be adopted at the next meeting. Steele said the funds for the contract would come from gas tax funds, which can only be used for road improvements.

The Council approved naming four more persons to the Eutaw Airport Authority Board: Reginald Cheatem, Derrick Coleman, Collin McCray and Joe Lee Powell. The Council previously named Danny Cooper and Billy Mingus to the Board. The Eutaw Airport Authority Board will work to maintain and improve the City’s airport for use in transportation and economic development. Mayor Steele asked the Council for permission to seek cost estimates to repave West End Avenue, which was approved. The Council also approved the use of Eutaw Civic Center, formerly the National Guard Armory, for a Ducks Unlimited annual event on November 9. Darlene Robinson said that she was going to place pink ribbons around the Courthouse Square for “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” and presented a plaque to the City. John Darden asked the Council if they had a strategic plan for flooding in view of the disaster of Hurricane in the Carolinas. He also raised the problems of failing culverts and lighting on Springfield Avenue, where he lives. Police Chief Coleman introduced retired Sheriff’s deputy Tommy Johnson Sr. who has been retained as a part-time city police officer. Several people in the audience thanked the police for their life saving and crime fighting efforts.

Mayor Raymond Steele announces groundbreaking for Love’s Truckstop on October 15

At the regular Eutaw City Council meeting on September 11, 2018, Mayor Raymond Steele announced that the groundbreaking for the Love’s Truckstop, at Exit 40 off Interstate 59/20 has been scheduled for 11:30 AM on Monday, October 15, 2018. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is scheduled to attend the groundbreaking along with representatives of state and Federal agencies that have facilitated the project coming to Greene County. After construction of the truckstop, with parking for 87 trucks, a convenience store and other services, Love’s will employ 43 people on an on-going operational basis. The Mayor indicated that the City of Eutaw has received a $400,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and a $372,425 grant from the Delta Regional Authority towards a $900,000 project to extend and connect the City Sewage to the truckstop site. The Greene County Industrial Development Authority has agreed to loan the City of Eutaw the balance needed to complete the sewage extension. Mayor Steele said, “We hope other businesses like motels and restaurants, will recognize the value of locating at the Interstate exit and we welcome their interest and support. The Mayor also reported that the City had determined that a large number of the new self-reporting water meters have been installed incorrectly and that in some cases the meter numbers were incorrectly listed on the master list, which meant that they were not properly communicating water usage for billing purposes. “We are working with the project engineers and contractor to correct these problems and bring our water billing procedures up-to-date,” said the Mayor. The Mayor also thanked Ms. Lovie Burrell Parks and the Greene County Extension Service for assistance in beautification of the city and the City Park area with shrubs, flowers, fences and other support. The Extension Service has also provided 40 round tables and 320 chairs for use at the City Park and two rooms with weights and exercise equipment for former Carver School property for use by the residents of the city. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council, approved closing Highway 14, at the junction with County Road 170, for repair of the Colonial Pipeline, which crosses Highway 14 at this point, about a mile from the Interstate Exit. The repairs are to begin September 17, 2018 and last for up to two weeks, which will mean rerouting traffic to and from the Interstate. Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson made a motion to re-name Carver School, which the City is in the process of acquiring from the Board of Education, for use as a recreation center, to be named the Robert H. Young Civic Center, in honor of the deceased long-time Principal of the school. The motion was approved. The Eutaw City Council approved Danny Cooper and Billy Mingus to serve on the Airport Authority Board charged with administrating and operating the city’s airstrip. The Council tabled the issue of securing municipal license tags for all city vehicles since Council members Sheila H. Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter, the main proponents of this issue, were absent from the meeting. This Eutaw City Council meeting was well attended with every seat in the audience filled. A group of mostly white residents came out to support the Eutaw Police Department against what they claimed were efforts by Council members to interfere with police efforts to fight crime and drugs. A Tuscaloosa TV station was also present video-tapping the meeting. One resident who said she lived across the street from the National Guard Armory said parties at the facility on weekends were still ending too late and disturbing the neighborhood. Jacky Davis, a Black resident responded, “The police must give respect to the people if they expect to get respect from the people.” Spiver W. Gordon said, “Respect is a two way street. Mutual respect is needed between the police and young people in the streets. We must teach and train our children to respect the police and the police must respect us and our children in the streets.”