Eutaw City Council continues discussion of Housing Authority appointments, water and street improvements

Benison & Chief

Officer Jimmie Benison and Police Chief Derick Coleman

 

At its March 14, 2017 meeting, the Eutaw City Council reaffirmed the appointment of three members: Jackie Allen (resident representative replacing LaTasha Johnson), Bertha Hunter and Mary Wray to the Eutaw Housing Authority.
Mayor Raymond Steele says he is following the statutes of Alabama, which empower the Mayor to name members of the Housing Authority Board of Directors, communicate his selections to the Council and have the notification recorded in the minutes.
Steele says he appointed new members to replace those appointed by former Mayor Hattie Edwards because her appointments were made in the waning days of her term and never recorded in the city council’s minutes. Due to a lack of a quorum, the last council meeting of Edwards’s term, near the end of October 2016 was never held, so her appointments were never officially recorded in the minutes.
The composition of the Eutaw Housing Authority Board is important to the continuing negotiations over merging the Eutaw and County Housing Authority boards and staffs which has been mandated by HUD, which funds both authorities.
Mayor Steele contends that since all of the public housing units are now in the city of Eutaw, that under the law he has sole discretion to appoint members of the merged authority. The Greene County Commission disputes this and wants an amalgamated board with appointments by both the city and the county. The districts of three of the Commissioners, Districts 1, 2 and 3, have constituents within the city of Eutaw.

Other municipalities within Greene County – Forkland, Boligee and Union are also interested in public housing development and desire consideration by the merged housing authority board. Mayor Steele says these towns can contract with the merged board for support and development of units if they have suitable land with the required water and sewer services.
The Eutaw City Council has through its Attorney, Ken Aycock, requested a State Attorney General’s opinion on the laws governing housing authorities and the selection of board members for the merged entity.
The Council also approved a motion suggested by Councilman Joe L. Powell that the Council not incurs any legal costs for defending its member selections to the Eutaw Housing Authority Board until the Attorney General’s opinion is received and permission is granted by the Council to pursue legal actions. This motion was approved over the Mayor’s objections.
Mayor Steele also gave a report on projects underway in the city. He stated that the water project was moving forward with installation of the new lines on Mesopotamia Street; a six inch water line will be extended to the Lock 7 Road; and work on constructing a new tank to replace the one behind City Hall, will begin soon. Soft wear to read new digital self-reporting water meters has been purchased and the installation of these new meters is among the remaining work to be done to complete the USDA sponsored water improvement project.
Steele also said work was done to patch roads in Branch Heights but the full repair and resurfacing of those roads would cost $1.8 million. He said he was working with grant writers to seek funding for this work from ALDOT and the Delta Regional Authority. He also said that the Prairie Avenue Project was almost complete with the exception of striping for parking.
After the Mayor’s report, several Council members advanced road and drainage projects in their districts, which needed immediate attention. The Council approved the payment of bills and claims for the month of February.
Police Chief, Derick Coleman, introduced Jimmie Benison, former Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy as a new police officer on the city police force.

February Eutaw City Council meetings deal with merger of housing authorities, vicious dogs and buying new vehicles

city-councilThe Eutaw City Council met on February 14 and 28 to conduct business. The main issues dealt with were the merger of the Eutaw and Greene County Housing Authorities, implementing ordinances on vicious dogs in the city and the leasing of three new SUV’s for use by the police and mayor.
The City of Eutaw has a Housing Authority (EHA) that handles Carver Circle and other housing within the city. The Greene County Housing Authority (GCHA) was established to develop housing in the county. The GCHA administers the 200 houses in Branch Heights. Branch Heights was annexed into the city of Eutaw in the early 2000’s.
HUD which funds both authorities – EHA and GCHA – wrote to both housing authorities, starting in October of 2015, that they needed to consolidate their staffs and operations into one housing authority serving the area. The two five member boards have been meeting for several months to work out a merger planning which would keep a ten member board appointed by both the City and the County Commission.
James “Dee” Powell who is the chairperson of the Eutaw Housing Authority Board says, “Our boards have agreed upon a merger plan, that preserves a board appointed by the City and the County; agrees to preserve the employment of both directors and the staff and leaves open the possibility of building other housing in Forkland, Boligee, Union and other communities in Greene County beyond Eutaw.”
Powell says that once Mayor Raymond Steele was elected in October, “The Mayor decided that since all the public housing was in Eutaw, that he, as Mayor of Eutaw, should name all of the members of the new merged housing authority. He insisted on this even though three of the Commissioners from Districts 1, 2 and 3 take in parts of the city as well.”
Mayor Steele says that he is following the law, governing housing authorities and that the only authorities permitted are those serving cities and thus he has the power to appoint all of the board members.
At the February 14 meeting, the Eutaw City Council, at the recommendation of its Attorney, Ken Aycock, agreed to seek an Alabama State Attorney General’s opinion on the statute governing housing authorities and who had the legal rights and power to appoint the new merged housing authority board.
At the February 14th meeting, the Eutaw City Council learned that Mayor Steele had removed some of the EHA board members appointed by former Mayor Hattie Edwards in the final weeks of her term. These appointments were never brought before the Eutaw City Council because the Council did not have a quorum in its final October meeting before power shifted to the newly elected Mayor Steele and council members.
At the February 14 meeting, the Mayor said he replaced Ms. Faye Tyree and Ms. Janet Cockrell who were appointed to the EHA by Mayor Edwards. He replaced Ms. Tyree with Ms. Bertha Cockrell. When Ms. Tyree confronted Mayor Steele about her letter of termination, he said that her appointment was never made official in the minutes, so he could dismiss her because she was never officially appointed. The Mayor also suspended funding from the West Alabama Regional Commission for a part-time position that Ms. Tyree was serving in, which meant she lost her position.
Things were further confused because newly elected Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson was serving as an EHA residential board member until her election to the City Council.
Mayor Edwards tried to replace her on the board before she officially resigned.
At the February 14th meeting, Dee Powell said he requested to be put on the agenda to discuss the board merger but was not placed on the agenda. After some discussion, the Mayor and Council agreed to place him on the agenda for the February 28 meeting.
At the February 28 meeting, Dee Powell, who is the EHA Chair explained the efforts to merge the housing authorities and accused Mayor Steele of bad faith in saying that if things didn’t go the Mayor’s way then there would be no merger. Powell also questioned the Mayor’s role in changing the EHA board members without consulting the board. “We need to look out for the welfare of the tenants of these housing developments,” said Powell.
Mayor Steele said he was just trying to do things according to the law and awaiting the Attorney General’s opinion on the legality of the merger. The Mayor asked the City Council to approve the selection of Jackie Allen to replace LaTasha Johnson, as the resident member, and Bertha Hunter to replace Veronica Jones. The City Council approved these changes.

Vicious dogs ordinance

Another contentious issue came up about vicious dogs in the city. After a Thanksgiving incident where Channel Glenn’s pit bull dogs attacked two city residents and sent them to the hospital for care, the City Attorney sent Glenn a letter, which contained the City ordinance on vicious dogs. The ordinance states that “the dogs must be kept in an enclosure that is 300 feet from any public park, playground, public building or residence of another”. The letter indicates that Ms. Glenn’s dogs are in violation of this city ordinance,
In the public comment section of the City Council meeting, Ms. Glenn angrily charged that the City had “inflated” the ordinance since she received it some time ago and asked for an investigation. She also argued that people had breached her fence and that was why the dogs attacked them. When the police chief tried to counter her arguments, she stormed out of the meeting.
In other business, the Eutaw City Council approved the purchase of three sewage pumps for the lift stations at Boligee, Lower Gainesville Road and the Lagoon. The pumps will cost $5-8,000 each.
The City also approved the leasing of three new SUV’s for $2,300 a month. Two are for the Eutaw Police Department and one for the Mayor. Several Council members including Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter were opposed to the Mayor receiving one of the new cars. The City Council also approved the sale of old vehicles after they are advertised.

Complaints about vicious and stray dogs dominate Eutaw City Council

dogsBy: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

Much of the discussion at the January 24, 2017 Eutaw City Council was devoted to complaints about vicious and stray dogs in the city.
Part of the concern was with pit bulls owned by Lonnie and Channel Glenn who live at 122 Harris Avenue. Glenn is a police officer with the Eutaw Police Department. Channel Glenn, his wife, is an outspoken city resident who often attends City Council meeting and raises various grievances.
This time the shoe was on the other foot, as several audience members questioned the Council about ordinances governing vicious dogs and stray dogs that are roaming the city.
Blondie Means who was bitten by one of the Glenn’s pit bulls on Thanksgiving Day -2016 was at the Council meeting questioning the Mayor and Council about enforcing the ordinances against “vicious dogs” like the Glenn’s pit bulls. Means said she suffered lacerations on her hands, face and breast from the dog. The dog was shot by a passerby and later euthanized by the police. Means lives two doors down from the Glenn’s on Harris Avenue and says she is afraid to come out of her house because of the dogs.
Mattie Roscoe, mother of George Roscoe, said her son was attacked by the same dogs on Thanksgiving and had to go to the hospital for treatment. The second dog was placed in quarantine for ten days because of the attack.
Channel Glenn told this reporter “You at the Democrat have the story all wrong. Someone was trying to steal my dogs and that is why the dogs attacked them. You better get the story right!”

At the January 10 City Council meeting, Ms. Glenn testified that,
“I love my dogs like they are my children. They are locked up and never out. Someone was trying to hurt my dogs that is why they were bitten.”
Residents asked Mayor Steele what he was going to do about enforcing city ordinances on vicious and stray dogs. Steele said he and the city’s attorney, Ken Aycock were studying the laws and would take appropriate action soon. The Mayor seemed in a difficult spot caught between angry citizens and a set of dog owners who are on the police force and who gave him political support in the last election.
Eutaw Police Chief Derrick Coleman said, “ I was out of town at the last City Council meeting. I have heard about the problem with the dogs. One dog was put down and the other dog was cleared by a veterinarian in Greensboro, after the ten day quarantine and returned to the owners.”
Coleman said that the Glenn’s may have as many as 7 or 8 pit bulls living in their house but they are very careful in taking care of them and supervise them when they let them out. Coleman said he was waiting on the Mayor to give him additional instructions on the dogs and enforcement of relevant ordinances against vicious dogs.
Other complaints were raised at the City Council about packs of stray dogs running around in Eutaw and the need for an animal control officer to catch the dogs and take them away.
Ms. Yvonne Smith of 324 Kirksey Avenue and her daughter Sabrina Smith came by the Democrat to complain of a pack of stray dogs in their neighborhood. They brought a photograph of the dogs camping out on their porch. Yvonne Smith said, “ I have to use a walker and I cannot chase the dogs away. They smell and leave behind bad odors. What is the city doing about these problems?”
In the public comment period other citizens raised questions about flooding on Ann Street, due to clogged drains; lighting problems on Springfield Avenue; a sinkhole that needs to be corrected on Prairie Avenue; and a school bus driver raised concerns about a roadway at Hook Avenue off Mesopotamia.
Faye Tyree complained that she was appointed to the Eutaw Housing Authority on October 25, 2016, based on a letter from former Mayor Hattie Edwards. Mayor Steele sent her a letter to vacate her board position because there was no record in the minutes of her appointment. Tyree said two other persons were appointed at the same time and they have not received letters from the Mayor.
The Council approved a request by the National Wild Turkey Federation to use the National Guard Armory for a dinner and approved the city attorney to develop a resolution on clearing an abandoned house on Tuscaloosa Street adjacent to the Eutaw Elderly Village.
Many citizens left the meeting shaking their heads about the need for action on the problem of the pit bulls and stray dogs. These citizens will be waiting to see what Mayor Steele and the City Council do to deal with these problems at future meetings.

 

 

Eutaw water tower taken down, first step in water improvement project

water-towerAt the January 10, 2017 Eutaw City Council meeting, Mayor Raymond Steele announced that the old city water tower behind City Hall was taken down as the first step in a $3.1 million water improvement project financed by USDA Rural Development.
The 250,000 gallon water tower, constructed in 1921 and deemed by engineers as too costly to repair, will be replaced with a new water tower as part of the project. The contractor with a large crane dismantled the tower in less than two days.
The City Council approved paying bills for December 2016 with the exception of bills from Babbs Engineering. The City informed Babbs that his contract was terminated around Thanksgiving but he did not receive notice until the first week of December and he had already been working for another month. There is also a large outstanding bill for engineering on the Prairie Avenue resurfacing project, which can be reimbursed from the ALDOT that contracted for this work.
The Eutaw City Council approved a resolution amending the Prairie Avenue agreement with ALDOT to include paving other side streets that adjoin Prairie Avenue.
The City Council also agreed in principle with a request from Mayor Steele to involve HERO Inc., a non-profit housing development organization from Greensboro (Hale County) in the development of houses on land on Harris Avenue in Eutaw.
The Council also approved holding a “Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday” later in the year for the sale of generators, batteries, flashlights and other supplies for emergencies. The projected dates for this holiday were not announced. The Council tabled a listing of excess vehicles for sale because the full list is still under development.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith requested a working meeting of the Public Safety Committee to discuss police procedures and needs. The meeting was scheduled as part of a working session on January 24 at 5:30 PM before the next regular City Council meeting.
In the public comment session two citizens raised complaints. Charles Swanson of Eutaw complained about ambulance service for his wife and Channel Glenn complained that people were trying to harm or steal her dogs, “which are just like my children” she argued. She also questioned the use of HERO Inc. as an effective housing developer.
The Mayor said he would look into both complaints. Steele told Ms. Glenn that her pit-bull dogs were of great concern to other residents of the community who were afraid of the dogs attacking them. He also said that he was going to have to enforce the ordinances against violent dogs that were not properly restrained.

Eutaw City Council approves construction financing for water project; modifies pay for some city employees; plans to update all water bills by January 2017

steele-and-smith

L to R: Mayor Raymond Steele and Mayor Pro Tem Sheila H. Smith.

The Eutaw City Council met on November 22, 2016 for its first full meeting since the election to consider business. All members were present.
LaTasha Johnson moved to amend the agenda to consider election of a Mayor Pro Tem of the Council to serve in the absence of the Mayor. This decision was left over from the Council organizational meeting on November 7, 2016. Johnson then proposed rotating Pro Tem for a year’s term, starting with Sheila H. Smith, representing District 4 and then moving to the other districts in numerical order. This motion was approved and Sheila H. Smith was designated as Mayor Pro Tem.
City Attorney Ken Aycock brought up approval of a contract with Co-Bank, a Denver based agricultural cooperative bank, to provide interim construction financing for the $3.1 million loan and grant water project for the City approved by USDA Rural Development. Co-Bank is providing the financing during construction and USDA RD will pay off the construction loan once the project is completed according to the proposed and designed specifications.

Co-Bank’s interest is based on a commercial banking index rate that changes as interest rates rise but is currently close to 1%, which is a very reasonable rate.
The City Council moved to unanimously approve the construction financing agreement with Co-Bank, which was the last remaining paperwork hurdle before the low bidders can start the project.
Mayor Steele introduced a resolution modifying the pay rates of several positions including City Clerk, Water Clerk, Assistant Police Chief and others. The salary adjustments were approved but not shared with the public. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith urged that the City Council consider all the police officers for a raise in the future. The Democrat has submitted a written request for the City’s salary schedule for all employees.
The Council approved the purchase of two used vehicles from ALDOT for use by the City’s Public Works Department. The Council paid outstanding bills and claims for September and October 2016.
The Council approved the travel of the City Clerk to a Municipal Training Conference in Florence, Alabama from November 30 to December 2, 2016. The Council also approved the selection of Walter Beck as Assistant Police Chief.
Mayor Steele brought up the issue of filling seats on the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. In the public comment period later in the meeting, James Powell said it was important to fill these positions so that the Eutaw and Greene County Housing Authorities could proceed with discussion of a merger, which HUD is actively pushing and supporting. “The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants one unified housing board to work through to improve public housing, including Branch Heights, in the city and the county,” said Powell.
Mayor Steele also brought up the need for a resolution for the City of Eutaw to accept the roads and streets in Branch Heights as a first step to finding the resources to solve the problems in Branch Heights. In response to questions, Steele said, “we need an official resolution to clear up any confusion on who owns these streets; and then we can work to find the resources to fix them. The Council asked Attorney Aycock to prepare a resolution for the next meeting.
The Mayor reported that the City water bills were 5 to 6 months behind and that citizens would soon get a water bill for three months and then in January 2017 a water bill catching up on all past due usage. “We will give residents and businesses grace time to pay these water bills, if time and payment plans are needed. We must get the water billing up to date. We are working diligently to make repairs and fix leaks in the system while waiting for the major new steps, like the digital self-reporting meters, that come with the USDA water project.”
Mr. Babb, City Engineer reported on building permits and progress on the resurfacing of Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43.

Eutaw City Council approves resolutions not to work on private property and for a new subdivision

City Map

At its regular meeting on June 14, 2016 the Eutaw City Council voted on several important resolutions affecting the City.
The Council heard a report from Torris Babb, city engineer and building inspector that the plans for the resurfacing of Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43 have been approved and scheduled for bid advertisement This weeks Legal Notice section includes the formal solicitation for bids on this project, which is estimated to cost $ 500,000.
Engineer Babbs also reported that he had approved building permits for T-Mobile and A. T. &T to do work in the city related to communications and cell phone services.
The Council also approved a “Resolution Directing City Employees to Refrain from Entering Private Property.” The resolution states that, “No City Employee may perform work, while on City time, or allow the use of City equipment, upon any property that is not owned by the City of Eutaw, or covered by a current valid right-of-way or easement. The purpose of this resolution was to prevent cutting of grass, drainage work and other city services on private property.
The resolution contains exceptions for the City to act and go upon private property in an emergency situation or where needed to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Eutaw.
Babbs also explained that he had registered the plat map of the new Hattie Cove Subdivision on city land bordering Harris and Furse Avenues below the Eutaw Activity Center, in the Greene County Courthouse (Probate Map Book 4, page 2). There are four lots adjoining the streets that are available for sale now and once these are marketed the proceeds will be used to open streets and utilities for seven more lots.
Mayor Hattie Edwards said the lots were selling for $8,000 each and two have already been optioned for housing development. Persons interested in the remaining lots should contact Mayor Edwards at City Hall to purchase them. A formal set of covenants indicating the rules for the subdivision will also be filed in the Courthouse to govern use of the lots.
The Council approved bills and claims for the month of May 2016 and the meeting was adjourned in less than an hour.

Eutaw City Council approves resolution on use of National Guard Armory

Chief & Sumlin

Chief Coleman and Drug Task Force Commander, Clint Sumlin 

 

At its regular meeting on April 26, 2016, the Eutaw City Council approved a resolution clarifying the procedure for waiving or reducing the usage fee for the City’s National Guard Armory on Mesopotamia Street by non-profit organizations.
Currently the fee is $250 for a meeting or social event. The amount is higher for activities that are raising funds. The new resolution clarifies that to receive reduced cost or a waiver, a group or organization, must submit an application for a fee waiver or reduction. The applying group must attach a copy of their IRS 501(c) 3 charitable status; and be an “organization, group or individual who have a history of providing material items to the community, such as food, clothing, health care and the like”; or, a funeral repast for local residents. “The City is willing to reduce the fee for qualified community groups that will benefit residents of the City of Eutaw, but we are now, as of the adoption of this resolution, keeping files and records to make sure that the facility is used properly,” said Mayor Hattie Edwards.
The Mayor announced that the ALDOT project to resurface Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43 is proceeding according to plans and $750 was spent on a permit to cross the Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks that cross Prairie Avenue.
The project is scheduled to be bid and constructed over the next few months.
Police Chief Derrick Coleman introduced Clint Sumlin, who is Area Commander for the area’s Criminal Drug Task Force. Sumlin spoke about the work of the Task Force in interdicting the drug trade in and around our area. “The Task Force invites local law enforcement officers to ride with them and participate in activities as part of our training efforts. We do not provide insurance for the officers, who are volunteering, but we expect their home base department will help with this,” said Sumlin. He said the Drug Task Force was needed and would help keep everyone safer.
Theresa Beeker addressed the City Council about organizing volunteers to help keep the City Park and tennis court in town, next to the Episcopal Church, clean so children and their parents can use it. She suggested that each council-member organize people in their district to clean and patrol the park one week a month, on a rotating basis. Mayor Edwards said that they would take this under consideration at a future meeting.
Carl Davis asked the police to help residents in Branch Heights to stop young people from shooting each other and into vehicles and homes. “These young people know that they cannot be held in the adult jail so they are shooting guns and provoking the police. We need to work with them and their parents to stop the violence,” said Davis.