Eutaw City Council approves increase in gas tax, proclamation for Headstart, Downtown Beautification and other matters

Eutaw Mayor Steele hands proclamation to Headstart leaders and Beautification Committee

 

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meetings on October 10 and 24, 2017 and sponsored a meeting of the Downtown Beautification Committee in mid-October to discuss plans to improve the downtown Courthouse Square area.
The Council held and approved a first and second reading of an ordinance to increase the gasoline tax to three cents per gallon in the City of Eutaw.

These funds will be used for road and street repairs. The ordinance will be published and go into affect barring any opposition from the public.
The Eutaw City Council approved a proclamation honoring Headstart and Early Headstart provided in this community by the Community Service Programs of West Alabama. The program serves 108 children.
The Council tabled action on proposals from Mason and Gardner, CPA’s on accounting work for the City to develop financial compilation reports for the past three fiscal years ending September 30, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The proposals also call for development and training of staff to operate an accounting system for the current fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, which will produce financial records and reports that could be audited for the current fiscal year period.
Mayor Raymond Steele asked that action on the accounting proposals be tabled until the first of the year, “ When we will know more about the financial status of the City and how much of these proposals we can afford to undertake.” The financial reports will be needed to support grant proposals and other requests that the City plans to make for assistance. These financial reports will form the basis for a financial budget for the city to measure and control finances.
The City Council also approved travel for Council members and staff to necessary training and municipal policy development meeting.
The Council tabled action on an $11,263 investment in the Retirement System to provide increased benefits to the 23 employees currently receiving retirements for service to the City.
Mayor Steele reported on progress on the USDA- Rural Development Water Loan and Grant Project. He said that the new water tank would be painted by the end of October and cleaned out and hooked up to the water system by the first of next year. All new digital water meters and fire hydrants had been installed. The company was going back over areas where new water pipes were installed and restoring damage to streets, drainage, and related concerns. The temporary power pole will be removed from the street when the water tank is fully operational.
The mayor said the knuckleboom truck was still in the repair shop and that city employees were picking up tree limbs, branches, leaves and other debris with an ordinary truck, which was slow and not as efficient as the specialized truck. The City was one employee short and needed to recruit additional staff.
The Mayor and Chief of Police said they were two officers short and were working on sending applicants to the Police Academy to be certified to serve on the police force.
The Mayor reported that the Downtown Beautification Committee had met to discuss plans to paint garbage receptacles and walls in and around the Courthouse Square with earthtone colors and classic designs. Rev. Deborah Born, Pastor of the United Methodist Church displayed some of the proposed colors and designs at the meeting. The Beautification Committee will be seeking the support and cooperation of downtown merchants and property owners for these improvements.

Eutaw City Council learns that $110,000 remains on Prairie Avenue contract that may be available for other street repairs

At the regular Eutaw City Council meeting on June 13, 2017, Torris Babb, City Engineer for the Prairie Avenue resurfacing project, reported that $110,000 was left of the original $500,000 grant for the project. Babb also indicated that the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) was willing to allow this money to be utilized for other road projects in Eutaw that directly connect to a state highway.
While the roads in Branch Heights, which are in the greatest need of repair, cannot be included in this project, other roads at West End, M and M Subdivision and others that directly connect to a state highway can be considered. Babbs said even pothole repairs on tributary streets could be included. The Mayor and City Council took this report under consideration and will come up with a list of potential projects to negotiate with ALDOT. Babb emphasized that there was some urgency to begin discussions, make plans and contract the work before time expires on the grant.
The Council also considered the payment of bills for the month of May 2017. There was much discussion of the bills and the specific accounts from which they should be paid. Council members requested a meeting of the Finance Committee and a Council Working Session on June 20 to review the City’s bank accounts and the sources and uses of funds coming into the City for operations, capital improvements and other services. The City is not operating with a budget, which defines income sources and uses of funds. Councilwoman Sheila Smith voted against paying the bills. She said, “this is a protest to the way the city is operating.”
Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter said, “ I tried under the last administration and this one to get a budget, so we would know and could project expenses, and which accounts to use to pay our expenses, but no one wants to make a budget. I have given up raising this as an issue – but the problem remains.”
In other actions, the Council approved travel for the Chief of Police and Assistant Chief to attend statewide conferences on law enforcement. Travel reimbursement for Councilman Carpenter to the League of Municipalities meeting was also approved.
Mayor Raymond Steele reported on needed sewer repairs, including replacement of pumps. The Council approved these expenses to be taken from the Water-Sewer Fund not the Capital Improvement Fund. The Mayor also reported progress on the USDA Loan and Grant water project. Work will resume on the Water Tower after the July 4th Holiday and may take until the end of the year to complete.
The Mayor said he was meeting with the Chair of the County Commission on placement of a power pole, in front of the William M. Branch Courthouse, on a temporary basis during construction of the water tower. The pole has subsequently been placed in the street on the side of the Courthouse, according to the Mayor, at the recommendation of project engineers and Alabama Power Company.
The County Commission and many citizens are not pleased with the placement of the pole in the street and wish that the City and County governments could come together on a better location.

The Mayor also reported that city workers were following behind the water construction contractor fixing streets and curbs, installing new digital self-reporting water meters, clearing drains and doing other finishing and follow-up work. Council members said that the contractor should reimburse the city for this work.
The Mayor said the City’s knuckleboom truck to cut limbs of trees blocking the streets was being repaired and would be put to work as soon as possible to keep up with fast growing grass, weeds and other vegetation. “We have so many problems and requests for street and drainage services but very little money to do the work,” said the Mayor with some degree of frustration. Residents of various areas of the city raised more issues of needed maintenance work during the public comment sessions.
Ms. Deloris Powell of Lock 7 says she was grateful to get the water but that the contractor had left the construction areas and drainage pipes in a mess.
Councilman Joe Lee Powell thanked the “Tommy Summerville Police Support League, Inc.” for donation of a police car for the Eutaw Police Department. Councilwoman Sheila Smith is a leader of the Tommy Summerville Police Support League, which is the charity that holds the license for the Palace Bingo Hall.

Eutaw City Council opens bids on surplus vehicles and property

Sheila Smith presenting a check for police car video systems to Police Chief Derick Coleman and Mayor Raymond Steele.

At its regular meeting on May 9, 2017, the Eutaw City Council opened bids on surplus vehicles and property that had been advertised for sale.
City Attorney Ken Aycock opened and read the bids at the meeting. The City Council approved a motion to sell the property to the highest bidder. All items save one, lot number 8 for a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, were sold. The City realized approximately $6,000 from this sale, which can used toward the acquisition of new property.
The City Council meeting also included a motion by Council members LaTasha Johnson and LaJeffrey Carpenter to add four items to the agenda, which were discussed in a working session but were not included on the agenda distributed by Mayor Steele.

Most of these items dealt with financial matters.
Mayor Raymond Steele protested the addition of these items to the agenda.” You don’t respect me or my judgment. I have not had time to study these items before they are added ton the agenda,” said Steele. The Council members pointed out that Steele had not attended the working meeting and they wanted these items handled.
The items included, changing the check signers on the City Operating Accounts, making personnel policies and time sheets for employees available for review by Council members, placing funds from the bingo operations in a separate account from other funds for use for capital improvements required in the city, and fixing the roof and other aspects of the repair of the National Guard Armory in stages. These items were approved as a package.
In reviewing the bills and claims for the month of April, Council members asked many questions concerning the presentation of the accounting reports, the lack of a formal budget to measure expenditures against and spending of funds from the bingo account for general expenses instead of capital improvements. The Council agreed to have a working session on finances on May 16 to get a better handle on the city’s finances. Councilman Joe L. Powell moved that the Council pay the bills that were presented but not accept the financial report as presented until it is improved.
The Council approved the Municipal Water Participation and Procedures (MWPP) report for the past year and forwarded it on the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Mayor Steele reported that the contractors were pouring the footings for the new water tower behind City Hall. “The tower should be complete in 9 to 12 months,“ said Steele.
Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith raised the question of whether all of the inoperable fire hydrants in Eutaw would be replaced by the USDA Rural Development Program Loan and Grant program. Mayor Steele said he was meeting with the project engineers and would bring up that question with them. He also said 1500 new self-reporting water meters would also be installed as part of the project.
Councilwomen Smith also asked about the procedure for using city land at the old swimming pool site on Highway 11 for vendors interested in participating in the Antique Alley program and sale. The Mayor said the vendors should make application with the City Clerk similar to use of the park and National Guard Armory.
LaJeffrey Carpenter raised issues on ditches and streets in his district that needed clearing as well as work needed at the entrance to the M&M Subdivision to make it more visible in relation to traffic on Highway 43.
At the end of the meeting Sheila Smith presented City Police Chief Derick Coleman a check for $1,871.75 from the Tommy Summerville Police Foundation for purchase of car video systems for each Eutaw police vehicle. These funds were generated for the Foundation from bingo operations at the new Palace facility.

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.