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.

Eutaw City Council approves applications for $872,425 to provide sewer connection to proposed Love’s Truck Stop location at Exit 40

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

At its regular meeting on May 22, 2018, the Eutaw City Council approved resolutions to apply for $872,425 to connect the City’s sewer services on Highway 14 (Mesopotamia Street) to a site near the Exit 40 interchange the Interstate 20/59.
Love’s Truck Stop proposes to build on a 13.9-acre site adjacent to the Interstate at the 40-mile marker exit. The site will have a fueling station, a convenience store, two fast food outlets (Hardees and Godfather’s Pizza), parking for 87 trucks and other related amenities to serve heavily traveled Interstate.
The truck stop is proposed to employ 43 people when operational, at least half of whom will be people who were previously low income. The business will also generate significant sales and gas tax revenues for state and local entities.
The resolutions were presented to the City Council by Ms. Cory Johnson, grant developer with the West Alabama Regional Commission in Tuscaloosa, which is assisting the City of Eutaw with this sewer project.
The Council approved a resolution to seek a grant of $400,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Alabama Department of Community Affairs (ADECA). This grant is based on the projection that the new business will create 43 new jobs.
The Council also approved a resolution to seek a grant of $372,425 from Delta Regional Authority to match the CDBG funding. The City of Eutaw will have to provide the remaining $100,000 in matching funds.

The City may be able to borrow these funds and make repayment from projected sales and gas tax revenues generated by the truck stop.
The funds will be used to provide a 1.5 miles sewer line extension from an existing manhole located near the intersection of Hook Avenue and Mesopotamia Street (aka AL Hwy 14) proceeding north to Interstate 20/59
(Exit 40) to serve the new Love’s Travel Stop. The improvements include a combination of force main and gravity sewer line, one road bore and a new lift station.
Mayor Steele advised the City Council that the engineering firm of Godwyn, Mills and Cahill of Montgomery, Alabama, that completed the City’s recent water project, was working on plans and specifications for the sewer system extension. The Mayor estimated 2 to 3 months for the final designs to be available for bidding the project. The truck stop also needs several other permits from the Alabama Department of construction of the truck stop can begin.
The City Council also adopted several other resolutions, which were required as part of the application package to ADECA, these included a Fair Housing Policy, Citizens Participation Plan, Procurement Policy and Limited English Proficiency Plan. These are standard procedures required for any state and Federal grant funding.
At the recommendation of Police Chief, Derrick Coleman, the City Council approved hiring of Kendrick Barnes as a new police officer. Barnes had experience working in Pickens County and was certified as a police officer. Two other potential officers are going through the Police Academy in Tuscaloosa.
The Council agreed to impose a rental fee of $300 to all groups using the Civic Center (formerly the National Guard Armory) whether they were for-profit or non-profit organizations. Mayor Steele said, “Our budget will not allow us to provide the facilities for free. We have to cover the costs of utilities, maintenance and repairs on our buildings.” The resolution was approved by a 5 to 1 vote, with Councilwoman Latasha Johnson as the only dissenter.
In it’s March 8th. Meeting the City Council approved its Municipal Water Pollution Annual Report and agreed to rename a portion of Prairie Avenue south of the railroad tracks to Highway 43 as “ Bo Scarborough Avenue” to honor the University of Alabama football player with family roots in Greene County.