Eutaw City Council approves Job Fair for Love’s Truck Stop at Carver Center, Oct. 16, 17 and 18

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the Eutaw City Council approved a ‘Job Fair’ for Love’s Truck Stop to be held at the Community Center, in the old Carver High School, on October 16,17, and 18.
Love’s is planning to open its Truck Stop and Travel Center on Thursday, October 24, 2019, at the Interstate 40 exit on Highway 20/59. Mayor Steele said the company is still looking for employees for the restaurant and tire shop. The facility will include three eating places: Hardees, Chester’s Chicken and Godfather’s Pizza.
Love’s plans to operate 24/7 and needs 60 to 70 full and part time workers to operate. Representatives of Love’s will be present next week to receive resumes and hold interviews with people needing a job.
The Eutaw City Council approved a proclamation honoring Head Start Awareness Month and the local program sponsor Community Service Programs of West Alabama.
The Council tabled a number of issues and placed them on the agenda for its October 15 Work Session. These items included: pay adjustments for city employees, a promissory note with the Greene County IDA for funds loaned for several projects, and a budget for the coming fiscal year. Councilman Joe Lee Powell said the City Council Finance Committee would meet after the Working Session on October 15 to discuss these issues.

The Council also postponed action on demolishing a dilapidated house at 116 Park Street until City Attorney Zane Willingham can do more research on this matter. The Council also postponed action on a DOT Rebuild Alabama Act grant to refurbish West End Avenue until the Mayor provides an estimate of engineering costs for the project.
The grant does not require any matching funds from the City but does require the City to provide for the cost of engineering plans and specifications.
The Council asked the City Attorney to develop an advertisement for bids, to be placed in both newspapers, for repairing the streets in King Village, for approval at the next meeting.
Councilman Bennie Abrams announced that the Greene County Fire Association would hold its annual awards banquet on Friday, October 11 at 7:00 PM at the Carver Community Center gymnasium. Tickets are still available for this event.
In the public comments section of the meeting, Darlene Robinson reported that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that the Deep South Community Cancer Network, in conjunction with UAB Medical School was working at the grassroots level to help people to get testing and screening for early detection of all types of cancers.

Eutaw City Council approves non-controversial items; tables others for next working session

Deborah Henderson, Census 2020 staff member addresses the City Council about available jobs as census takers.

The Eutaw City Council acted on some non-controversial agenda items and pushed the others where there is disagreement and more time is needed for a resolution to its next work session.
At the beginning of its meeting, the Council heard a presentation from Deborah Henderson, U. S. Census Recruiting Specialist for Greene County indicating that jobs are available for census takers for the 2020 Census. These short-term jobs pay $15.50 an hour with a mileage allowance of 58 cents per mile. Henderson said that the U. S. Census was looking for 100 applicants from Greene County. Persons interested may call: 1-855-JOB-2020 or check on line for information and applications.
The Eutaw City Council approved an application from Love’s Truck and Travel Center for a license to sell beer and wine.
The Council approved accepting a $24,000 grant from ADECA for police equipment including computers, cameras and tasers. This grant has no matching funds requirement.
The Council also approved a travel request for City Judge, Josh Swords to attend a Fall Conference, September 26-28,2019 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Attorney Zane Willingham, in response to questions from Council-members at last week’s working session, reviewed various personnel policies from the Employee Handbook with the City Council especially dealing with overtime pay.
Willingham said the personnel policies are clear that part-time employees are not entitled to holiday pay. He also explained that overtime pay is only accrued and should only be paid when an employee actually physically performs more than forty (40) hours of work in a weekly period. This means that vacation, sick leave, holidays, administrative leave, PTO hours are not considered hours worked when computing overtime.
To clarify these policies, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution stating, “Should you be required to work on a holiday, or if your regularly scheduled day off falls on a holiday – you will be given an alternate day off. You must be given an alternate day off within the same fiscal year.”
The Eutaw City Council voted to approve paying bills that were most needed from a list that was presented. In a previous meeting $200,000 was allocated from the bingo funds earmarked for Branch Heights roads to pay current bills. After these payments were made, using the $200,000, some critical bills remain to be paid.
Council members asked Mayor Steele to prioritize the bills that needed to be paid. The Mayor urged using more bingo funds to make these payments. Some of these decisions were referred to the next City Council Working Session.
Mayor Steele asked the Council to approve purchase of a generator, costing $44,763, through FEMA to use at the City Hall in times of emergency when no electricity is available. This FEMA purchase requires an $11,192 match from city funds. The Mayor wants to use bingo funds to pay the match. This decision was tabled for discussion at the next working session.
Councilman Carpenter brought up the issue of raises for city staff. The Mayor said some staff received a raise because they were promoted to a supervisory position. The Mayor said he was not sure there was enough funding to provide all staff with a raise. The Council said some adjustments in pay were needed for staff with CDL, Heavy Equipment Operator and other skill certifications. The Council then voted to hold a Special Called Meeting to deal with staff salary adjustment on Monday, September 30,2019 at 6:00 PM at City Hall.
Mayor Steele reported that he purchased an air compressor for $7,500, which was put to work fixing water leaks in Branch Heights and other locations. The Mayor says he still needs to purchase a small tractor for use in street repairs.
The Council said to bring this request to the next working session.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith moved to use some of the bingo funds in the earmarked account for resurfacing the roads in King Village. This motion passed over the objections of the Mayor who said this item was not on the agenda and the expenditure might not be needed based on the City’s overall finances and other more critical needs. While the motion passed, it seemed that this long unresolved issue was headed to the next working session before it is resolved.
Smith also questioned the Mayor about exercise and weight room equipment at the Carver School community center. Steele said this long awaited equipment, donated by the Auburn Cooperative Extension Program, arrived last week and had been set up. Rev. Barton, Director of the Center, will soon send out a press release with information about the hours and usage of this weight equipment by the public.
In the public comments section, Mary Johnson complained about her water being “milky looking”. Mayor Steele said that was an indication that there was air in the lines from repairs and that she would need to run her water until the air came out of the pipes. He promised to send someone to check on the problem. Councilman Joe Lee Powell suggested that the City purchase a supply of bottled water to give to residents when there were problems with the City water system.

Eutaw City Council holds special meeting to approve transfer of bingo funds to meet immediate bills

Chief Derick Coleman with new police officer Derrick Carter

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

The Eutaw City Council held a special called meeting on Monday night, July 15, 2019, to approve transferring $70,000 of bingo funds in a Capital Improvement Fund to meet immediate outstanding bills critical to keep the city operating.
This decision came against a backdrop of long-standing arguments over city finances between Mayor Steele and councilmembers. Council members: LaJeffrey Carpenter, Latasha Johnson and Sheila Smith have requested a budget, a meaningful plan for using city funds to cover routine and extraordinary city expenses. Councilman Joe Lee Powell sometimes joins this group especially when needed expenditures concern his district. Councilman Benny Abrams has generally voted with the Mayor.
About three months ago, the City Council in an unprecedented action removed Mayor Steele as a signatory on most city accounts and left the payment of bills to Councilmen Carpenter and Powell. These council members, aided by City Clerk, Kathy Bir have prioritized and paid the bills as best they could. The City has a list of accounts payable between $200,000 and $300,000, which were presented to the Council in the past few meetings.Councilwoman Sheila Smith points out that there are problems in the City Water Department with billing. The City sends out bills for a combination of water, sewer and garbage services. The amount of revenue coming in is not sufficient to pay the expenses for these services. Some people have received minimum water bills for months even though they know that they are using substantial amounts of water.
There seems to be a disconnect in the computer softwear used to read the new digital water meters and the printing of bills. The City has called the Alabama Rural Water Association to help diagnose and solve these water billing problems but progress in resolving the issues is slow. The Mayor insists that all problems with the new digital, self-reading meters have been resolved but the continuing dilemma of low revenues from the water, sewer and garbage fees suggests that problems remain.
Mayor Steele called Monday’s special meeting to transfer funds from the City Capital Improvement Account and from the
Special Fund for repair roads in Branch Heights to pay the current backlog of bills. Mayor Steele insisted, “ We are endangering the lives of city residents by not paying these bills. Our wifi communications have been turned off for non-payment of bills, which means our police cannot write tickets and check driver’s identities. We are not able to put chlorine in the water and people may die. We are not doing things required by state statutes.”
The Mayor asked to transfer funds from the current Capital Improvement Account, which has a balance of $70,312 and the Special Fund for Branch Heights Roads, which has a balance of $577,000 to pay outstanding bills.
A motion was made to transfer funds in the Capital Improvement Account and put the bingo funds flowing in to this account for the next six months into the General Fund to pay bills. The Council also wants to have a discussion with the Sheriff about using funds from the Special Funds for Branch Heights Roads for paying bills. The Mayor used half a million dollars in the 7 cent Highway Fund to pay for resurfacing the Branch Heights Roads, so he feels that Sheriff Benison should release funds in the Special Account for the city to pay its bills.
As soon as the motion was passed, the Mayor adjourned the meeting. This reporter had to jump up and ask that the figures be clarified so that the public would know how their monies were being spent. No figures on the funds to be transferred were used in the discussion or motion. You are seeing figures in this story that the newspaper had to beg for and pry out of the Mayor and city officials.
$70,000 of Capital Improvement funds will be transferred immediately to pay pressing bills. This fund receives $4,500 each month in bingo funds from Greenetrack, Rivers Edge and Frontier bingos, which totals $13,500. Prior to the closing of Greene Charity, there was another $4,500 a month flowing into this account. $13,500 for the month of June is still pending and expected for this account that may be used to pay bills.
Another $27,000 a month of bingo funds from the Palace is paid into the Special Fund set up by the Sheriff for Branch Heights Roads. Some councilmembers argue that these funds are needed for roadwork in King Village and other multi-family housing complexes.
In the July 9, 2019, regular City Council meeting, the Council:
• Approved ordinances to allow for Sunday liquor sales and clarifying the sale of wine in Eutaw; the ordinances will go into affect after they are published one time in the newspaper;
• Approved travel for the City Clerk and administrative assistant for training;
• Authorized the Mayor to pursue FEMA funding for repair of culverts throughout the city that have been damaged by recent heavy rains. 75% of these repairs are paid by FEMA, 12.5% by the State of Alabama and 12.5% are a local matching contribution.
Police Chief Derick Coleman introduced a new part time police officer, Derrick Carter. The Chief indicated that this hire would bring the force to seven full time and three part time officers.

Local legislation passed allowing the City of Eutaw to have Sunday liquor sales

At last night’s Eutaw City Council meeting, Attorney Zane Willingham announced that the Alabama State Legislature passed local legislation, which was signed by the Governor to allow for Sunday liquor sales in the City of Eutaw,
Willingham said, “This new legislation will allow the city to rewrite its ordinance for liquor sales and create uniformity for both on premises sales and off premises sales. The current laws make distinctions between the sale of beer and wine all of which will be corrected with a new ordinance.”
Willingham also said he would be drafting a new detailed ordinance for the sale of beer, wine and liquor for the Eutaw City Council to approve at its upcoming meetings. “This ordinance will provide liquor sales 24/6 on Monday through Saturday; but for Sundays the hours for on premise and off premise sales will be 10:00 AM to 12:00 Midnight, “ said Willingham.
More information on the liquor sales ordinance and other business conducted at the June 25, 2019 meeting of the Eutaw City Council will be covered in next week’s newspaper.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council reach political logjam

News Analysis
By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Last night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting was convened by Mayor Raymond Steele at 6:00 PM. The City Council added an Executive Session to a very limited agenda.
After the ten minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened but could not pass a motion to come back into regular session. The meeting was adjourned after taking no actions at 6:20 PM.
I attend the City Council meetings on a regular basis. I attended the April 9 meeting and the City Council Work Session on April 16, 2019 but did not write a story on these meetings because there was so much division and discord between the Mayor and Council that I did not want to report. I had hopes that some of these issues would be resolved in a positive manner and some compromise actions would be taken at last night’s meeting.
I am sad to report as a resident of the City of Eutaw that the meeting ended without resolution of on-going issues and without moving forward on some critical issues and concerns.
There seems to be a lack of communication between Mayor Steele and most Councilmembers that could lead to some compromise and resolution of outstanding issues. I think it is fair to say the Mayor and Council are at loggerheads or in a political logjam that they must work to resolve.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson says, “The Mayor will not communicate with us, will not give us information about the city’s finances that we are supposed to have and expects us to go along with anything he does. If he consulted with us and discussed these things, I am sure we could come to some fair resolution and conclusions.”
Johnson and other council members have been asking for a current statement of income and expenses for the city, a budget listing how revenues will be expended, a detailed listing of bills that have been paid and are owed. “We basically have received none of these financial reports, so we do not know where we stand and how to make decisions going forward.” she said. Mayor Steele says, “ We know that the City does not have a large enough tax base to pay all bills. We pay the bills as best we can to keep the city operating. I have the responsibility to make day-to-day administrative decisions and I am trying my best to do that. The records and information that council members are requesting are available to them if they come to City Hall and request it from the City Clerk.”
In a March meeting, the Council passed a resolution to remove the Mayor as a check signatory on most city accounts, as a way to put controls on his ability to spend city funds without Council knowledge or approval. The Mayor says, “This is unfair. This prevents me from carrying out my day to day responsibilities and the Council has given no reason to remove me as a signatory.” The Mayor has not brought the official bank resolutions to the City Council, after being asked in several meetings, including the April 16 Work Session.
The Council has passed several other resolutions, including one to declare a shed vacant on the grounds of the former National Guard Armory to rent to a church non-profit for storage for its surplus furniture service; a resolution not to accept cash for payment at the City’s water department; and a resolution to revisit the cost of utilizing city facilities by community groups. The Mayor has not brought these items back for consideration and implementation by the City Council. They were not listed on last night’s agenda despite being requested at the April 16 Work Session, which was part of the reason the Councilmembers were so displeased with the Mayor.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith says, “ We have been requesting information on the revenues for the City Water Department for months. Some people are paying too much; others get minimum bills month after month. There is something wrong with the new water meters and the softwear used to read the meters and make out the bills. But the Mayor says everything is fine but does not give us the financial reports to show that revenues for the Water Department are below what is needed to operate the system and service our debts.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell says, “ I am concerned about the way the Mayor is running the City. This is not a dictatorship. The Mayor should be consulting with us on problems and providing the information we have requested. I am particularly disturbed that repairs have not been made to the sewage system in Branch Heights. It is a health hazard that sewage is backing up into people’s homes and is in their yards and ditches. People in Branch Heights pay their water and sewage bills and deserve that these problems be addressed by the City.”
Powell indicates that he asked the Mayor to put the Branch Heights sewage problems on the agenda, at the April 16 Work Session, but this item was not listed on last night’s agenda. Powell says he is concerned that he is being asked to support matching funds for a Streetscape project to improve and enhance the Courthouse Square while the Mayor ignores problems in other parts of the City.
The Council members are also upset and concerned that the Council minutes do not accurately reflect what happened at the meetings and contain commentary and notes that support the Mayor and disregard their inputs and motions.
To this observer, Mayor Steele and the Eutaw City Council are at an impasse. They must come together and put aside some of their differences, develop a financial report and budget to operate from a mutual understanding of the city’s current conditions and future prospects; communicate honestly, compromise strategically, seek help from sympathetic external supporters and work out their problems with each other, so the City of Eutaw can move forward in the interest of all of its residents.

Eutaw City Council approves ordinance for police officers to drive cars home; Sunday liquor sales; and tables action on matching funds for downtown development

Shown above Mayor Raymond Steele, City Council members and Eutaw Police Officers.

The Eutaw City Council took action on a variety of outstanding issues but tabled a major downtown development and beautification project until Mayor Steele provides more information on the city’s finances and budget.
The Council approved a resolution allowing members of the Eutaw Police Department to drive their official police car home and to use the car to commute back and forth to work from their home location, even if it is in another county. The cars are not to be used for personal purposes but only for the commute from work to home and home to work.
The TS Police Support Foundation, a local charity connected with the Palace Bingo in Knoxville, agreed to pay the additional mileage, gas and maintenance costs for cars used by police officers to commute to work. The resolution acknowledges the contribution of the TS Police Foundation to make this resolution possible. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith, who also works as an officer of the charity helped spearhead this effort.
The Council approved a first reading of an ordinance to permit alcohol sales on Sunday in the city limits of Eutaw. Eutaw Bait Shop and 12 Roots Restaurant, a new restaurant under renovation at the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square, requested this ordinance. The original resolution, which must be approved by the Alabama Legislature, named only the two establishments that requested the change. The City Council decided that this opportunity should be extended to all businesses that request expanded Sunday alcohol sales.
The Council also approved a policy that the City would no longer accept cash payments effective the first week of February. Only checks and money orders will be accepted for water bills and other municipal charges to reduce the chance for losses. Councilman Bennie Abrams inquired if the council members had checked on the impact of this policy on low-income people who did not have checking accounts. The other Council members felt this policy was best for the city. The Council also approved Joe Lee Powell, LaJeffrey Carpenter and City Clerk Kathy Bir as signatories on the municipal bank accounts.
The Council approved an ordinance to declare a storage building adjacent to the National Guard Armory as surplus not needed for public use. Councilwoman Latasha Johnson has been pushing this ordinance as a way to allow the City to lease this building to REACH Inc. for its used furniture distribution service, which has been evicted from the Robert H. Young Civic Center (formerly Carver School).
Mayor Steele objected to the resolution because he contends that the storage building is used and needed for storage of the city’s Christmas lights, ornaments and other supplies. The Council approved the resolution as a first reading as an ordinance subject to a second reading and approval at the next City Council meeting. In the public comments section, some nearby residents said they did not want a furniture business on the grounds of the Armory.
Mayor Steele requested approval to begin engineering work on the TAPNU-TA grant, a $600,000 grant awarded to the city for sidewalks, lanterns and other improvements to the downtown Courthouse square area of Eutaw. The Mayor indicated that he was seeking $210.000 in matching funds for this project by grant and loan funds. The Council tabled further action on this TAPNU-TA grant until the Mayor responds to their questions on city finances and a budget.
The Council felt that without clarity on the city’s finances, including revenues and expenses, in a budget, it could not determine the affordability of borrowing to do new projects. This concern over the City’s finances has been a recurring theme of Council opposition to the Mayor’s plans to revitalize and improve the city.
Council members Latasha Johnson, Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter made a motion to approve the appointment of Attorney Joshua Swords as Municipal Judge for Eutaw. Councilman Bennie Abrams asked if the other council members had discussed this choice with the Police Department. Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked if the current Municipal Judge, Attorney William ‘Nick’ Underwood, had retired or resigned and why we needed a new judge. The appointment of Swords was approved on a 3 to 1 vote with Abrams abstaining. Mayor Steele also objected to this appointment but it was approved by a majority vote of the City Council.
The Council approved travel for the Court Clerk to a regional seminar for municipal court officials in Birmingham on April 4 and 5, 2019. It also approved an increase in the travel mileage rate to $0.58 per mile in conformity with Federal standards.
Mayor Steele reported that resurfacing of the roads in Branch Heights had been completed and that Central Asphalt did a good job;
clearing of the site for the Love’s Truck Stop has begun and the sewer extension project will begin on January 25, 2019 . He further stated that he was working to pay the most urgent outstanding bills first and work on a report for the Council so they will understand the city’s financial situation.

Eutaw City Council approves ordinance on political signs

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at City Hall. The Council unanimously approved a resolution adopting a strict ordinance on the display of political signs in the City of Eutaw. The Council also agreed to suspend rules to allow for final approval and publication of the ordinance without a second reading and meeting. The ordinance says in part, “Section 1: No political sign shall be erected, constructed, posted or painted on any utility pole, tree, bench, fence, or awning; nor attached to any city, county, state or federal roadway, directional sign or informational sign. No signs shall be erected, constructed, or posted on any portion of the Greene County Courthouse Square Historic District.” The ordinance goes on to limit signage to the period between qualification and election. There is a penalty of $25.00 per sign, ascribed to the candidate whose name is on the sign and whose sign is left up more than seven days after an election. Councilman Latasha Johnson proposed a resolution to declare the building adjacent to the National Guard Armory, which currently houses Christmas decorations, as surplus so it could be leased to the REACH organization for storing surplus furniture. This furniture is currently stored in a portion of the former Carver Middle School facility, which the City is converting to a civic and youth activities center. Johnson’s resolution was voted down in a vote of 3 to 3 with Mayor Steele, Bennie Abrams and Joe Lee Powell voting against use of the facilities for the community furniture business promoted by REACH, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Christ Temple Church in Eutaw. Johnson said, “My proposal for use of the storage building near the Armory would have brought in some rental money and helped keep this service for low income people in the community. The Mayor is against this REACH service business and wants the furniture out of the school.

A spokesperson for REACH told the Democrat that based on meetings with the Mayor that they have decided to move the furniture out of the school into some warehouse space the group has in Sumter County. “We will try to keep making furniture available through some empty houses we have in our community around our church in Eutaw. The Mayor has not been supportive of any solutions to this problem and had the furniture locked up in the school where it cannot help anyone,” he said. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith announced that the TS Police Support League, Inc., the operating charity of the Palace Bingo was sponsoring a Community Christmas Party on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at the National Guard Armory. In the Public Comments Section of the meeting, several persons raised concerns about the problems and inaccuracies of the city water bills. Another asked about when the city would have an audit report available for public review and inspection. Mayor Steele invited the public to come at any time to the City Hall to examine the financial statements of the City, which would be provided by the City Clerk. Mayor Steele also indicated that the City staff was reading the water meters and trying to fix those that were not working properly. A Working Session of the Eutaw City Council scheduled for the third Tuesday of the month, November 20, 2018 has been cancelled and not rescheduled.

Eutaw City Council meeting reveals continuing controversy between Mayor and Councilmembers over Carver school, water bills and finances

By; John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The official agenda distributed for the October 23, 2018 meeting of the Eutaw City Council was deceptively short. No new business was listed and under old business was one item on political signs. This should have been a warning that this would be a divisive meeting where issues dividing the Mayor and Council would come forward and be aired in public. The Mayor asked City Attorney Zane Willingham to present a draft ordinance regulating the display of political signs in the City of Eutaw. Members of the City Council had the proposed ordinance in writing but copies were not distributed to the public at the meeting. Council members did not raise many questions or objections to the sign ordinance. Willingham asked for suggestions on size limitations of political signs and Councilman Joe Lee Powell and others volunteered to provide more input. The Democrat secured a copy of the proposed ordinance after the meeting. The ordinance is very strict on the display of political signs in the City. Section 1 of the proposal says: “ No political sign shall be erected, constructed, posted or painted on any utility pole, tree, bench, fence, or awning; nor attached to any city, county, state or federal roadway, directional sign or informational sign. No signs shall be erected, constructed, or posted on any portion of the Greene County Courthouse Square Historic District.” The proposed ordinance goes on to limit signage to the period between qualification and election. There is a penalty of $25.00 per sign, ascribed to the candidate whose name is on the sign and whose sign is left up more than seven days after an election. Several political observers, consulted by the Democrat, were critical of the sign ordinance as being too restrictive and punitive especially in its limitations on placing signs at the Courthouse Square, where political discourse is expected during elections in a democracy.

Mayor and Council disagree on use of school

The Council then shifted to a discussion of the use of the former Carver School facility, which the City has acquired from the Greene County Board of Education and named the Robert H. Young Civic Center. When the City of Eutaw acquired the school, the Christ Temple Church was already operating a used furniture exchange in a portion of the facility. In July, the City Council passed a motion, proposed by Councilwoman Latasha Johnson, that Christ Temple Church be allowed to operate the furniture business at no cost for up to one year while the City formulated policies and procedures for use of the Robert H. Young Civic Center. The Mayor and City Attorney Zane Willingham submitted a letter, in August, to the church saying that they would have to vacate the building and remove their furniture because the resolution adopted by the City Council was invalid and procedurally incorrect because the property was not declared surplus before it was provided “at no cost” to the church group. The letter from the Mayor gave the church until September 15, 2018 to vacate the city property. The Democrat interviewed Ms. Fannie Grantham, church secretary and spokesperson. Grantham also attended and City Council meeting and tried to get an explanation of the Mayor’s actions on behalf of the City. The Mayor and Willingham insisted that the Council must rescind the “improperly constructed resolution” but no alternatives were offered to the church for utilization of the building or other available city buildings for a rental charge. The Council by a vote of 3 to 2 with the Mayor, Abrams and Powell voting in favor and Councilwomen Johnson and Smith opposed. Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter was absent. Ms. Grantham says the church has received this furniture as a gift from various sources and provides furniture to people who otherwise cannot afford it, for a donation, which goes toward the costs of hauling the furniture. “We have tried to help people who needed furniture to be able to get it; this is not a business, it is a community service,” says Grantham. At the City Council meeting, Mayor Steele said that he was concerned about providing space in a city owned building for a furniture business that was competing with Spiller’s Furniture and other businesses in the City, who pay for business licenses. After receiving the Mayor’s letter to vacate the school, Grantham says several meetings were held to try to work out a solution with the Mayor. “The church and our non-profit – REACH, offered to pay rent for the space and asked the City to make a proposal. The Mayor said that his plans for the school did not include furniture and no other city buildings, including an out building at the Armory were available. He did offer to sell us a building, that he owned downtown, next to the cleaners, for $65,000,” said Grantham. Grantham says Rev. Barton, who the Mayor has employed to operate a youth sports program at the school has locked up the part of the building where the furniture is located and the church has not been able to get in to use it since the October 23rd meeting. Councilwoman Latasha Johnson says, “The Mayor has been wrong from the beginning on the purchase and use of the Carver School. We were supposed to work on a plan with the Greene County Commission to purchase the school and use it more widely for all of Greene County. The way the Mayor has treated the church is unfair. My original proposal was to allow them to stay and use a part of the building, at no rent, until we made policies for its use. The Mayor does not want to work with the Council.” Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith said, “ I do not understand what the Mayor is doing. He insisted on buying a school, we cannot afford. Our water meters and bills are still not updated. We do not have a budget and we have not paid our bills.” The Mayor says that the City Council has been unwilling to work with him on the development of a program for young people at the Carver School. “ We have been providing opportunities for young people and we are planning for more activities going forward.”

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.”

Eutaw City Council accepts $372,425 grant from DRA for sewage connection for truck stop site

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, the Eutaw City Council approved a resolution accepting a $372,425 grant from the Delta Regional Authority for a project to extend the city sewage to a site at Exit 40 on Interstate 59/20. Love’s Truck Stop has agreed to construct a full service truck stop with parking for 87 trucks, a convenience store and two fast-food franchises at the site. Love’s Truck Stop estimates that the facility will provide 43 jobs when it is in full operation. The City of Eutaw agreed to extend sewage to the site as a condition for Love’s to bring its facility to the city. The sewage line is estimated to cost $900,000 including required lift stations. Thus far, the City of Eutaw has secured a $400,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and this grant of $372,425 from DRA, A Federal-State compact serving the Mississippi Delta and Alabama Black Belt region. This is a total of $772,425 in grants pledged towards the cost of the sewage project. The Greene County Industrial Development Authority has pledged to raise or provide as a loan the balance of the funds needed to complete the sewage line extension and secure location and development of the truck stop at Exit 40 on the Interstate. “We have been trying to get this project for a long time and I am pleased that we have secured the funds necessary to bring City sewage services to the site. We appreciate the confidence of the Love’s Truck Stop organization in the City of Eutaw and Greene County. WE feel this is only the beginning of the development of the Exit 40 Interstate exit,” said Mayor Raymond Steele. The City Council also passed a resolution to set up a bank account for the Love’s Project with the Mayor, Councilmen Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter as signatories. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

• approved a name change to Eutaw Quick Food Mart from West End Grocery for an off-premises beer and wine permit; • approved travel for Council members Joe Powell and Sheila H. Smith to attend the 2018 Municipal Leadership Institute and Graduation in Prattville on October 4, 2018; • agreed to review and make changes to the City Personnel Handbook beginning at the next City Council work session; • changed signatories on the City Operating Account by removing Mayor Steele and the Water Clerk, leaving Councilman Joe Lee Powell and adding Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter; • required all city vehicles to have municipal tags by September 11, 2018 or be parked; several city vehicles including an SUV driven by the Mayor currently have ‘undercover tags’.

Public Comment Period yields discussions on disagreement in the City

In the public comments section of the meeting, numerous citizens of the Cityof Eutaw urged the Mayor and City Council members to work together. Sarah Duncan, long time civil rights and community worker said, “I am tired of reading in the papers and seeing here today that the Mayor and the City Council are not in agreement. I urge you to work together in the interest of the people of Eutaw.” Matthew Williams urged, “The Mayor and the City Council to communicate with each other and work together.” Monty White of Fishburne Avenue raised some issues of drainage saying he had been trying to get resolved since July. The Mayor said that some of the problem was on private property and that the City was not responsible for all problems. Sarah Nickson asked, “Why did I get a water bill with zero usage and then have to pay $70. Something is wrong in the water department. Do you have a budget? Can you explain where the town’s money is going? The Council and the Mayor must work together to solve these urgent problems.” Five members of the City of Eutaw Police Department, in full uniforms and armed said they were concerned about crimes in the city of illegal guns and drugs. “ We want to do our jobs to protect the citizens but when we arrest someone for illegal acts, they said that they will raise a complaint with the City Council and sometimes they say Council members are their relatives. We want to do our jobs but the Mayor and the Council must back us up.” The Mayor said he supported the police and that “It is very serious when the City Council interferes in the day-to-day work of the police and the Mayor.” Councilwoman Latasha Johnson said, “There are two sides to every story including this issue with the police. We need to hear both sides.” The meeting ended without real clarity on how to resolve these issues and how the Mayor, the Council and the residents will come together to solve these festering problems. Our newspaper invites your comments and letters on how we resolve this difference and move forward in a positive and progressive manner.