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.

Steele moves $115,000 of Branch Heights Road funds Eutaw Mayor and City Council members disagree over use of funds

Last night’s Special Called Meeting of the Eutaw City Council ended in a deadlocked 3 to 3 tie vote over paying bills for the City.
Mayor Raymond Steele, Latasha Johnson and Bennie Abrams voted in favor of paying the bills while Joe Lee Powell, LaJeffrey Carpenter and Shiela H. Smith voted against paying the outstanding bills for May and June.
This special meeting was held because the prior regular Council meeting, last Tuesday June 12, ended in an argument between Council members and the Mayor, after an Executive Session discussing the movement of funds to pay bills.
In an interview with the Democrat, Councilman Joe Lee Powell said he was concerned that Mayor Steele had transferred $115,000 from an account earmarked to repair roads and streets in Branch Heights to pay the City’s current bills. The account had about $350,000 in it before the transfer.
“ A meeting was held in Branch Heights to discuss the status of the ‘road fund’ which comes from a $27,000 monthly set aside of funds paid by the Palace Electronic Bingo Hall. After the meeting, the Mayor transferred the funds out of the Road Account into the General Fund, and used them to pay bills,” asserted Councilman Powell, who lives in Branch Heights and represents the area on the Eutaw City Council.
“What the Mayor did was take the little hope we had of fixing the roads in Branch Heights and dashed our hopes. The Mayor should have met with us to figure out what other parts of the budget could be cut and how to adjust accounts to make funds available to pay bills. How will we pay next month’s bills, does Mayor Steele plan to dip into the Branch Heights Road Fund again?” asks Powell.

Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter says, “ This is not a new problem, the Mayor knows our income has been dropping for several months. Why didn’t he meet with the Council to discuss this before taking the Branch Heights funds without our permission? If we had a budget for the City, we could have caught this problem in time and avoided being in this situation.”
Mayor Steele says, “ I had no choice but to use the funds we had to pay our bills, including a bill to IRS on late payment of employee taxes. I have been working with U. S. Senator Richard Shelby and others to get the $5 million needed to redo the roads and streets in Branch Heights. It is going to take a lot more than the money in the special Branch Heights Road Fund to fix the roads. We need to pay our bills now and work on the roads when more substantial funds become available from the Federal government.”
Steele went on to say, “I consulted with Sheriff Benison before I moved the road funds over to the general fund. He agreed that we needed to pay our current bills.”
“ I am also hoping in the near future that the Love’s Truck Stop, at the Interstate 40 Exit, will become a reality and can generate new sales and gas tax revenues to help with the City’s General Fund and for special projects like repair of the roads in Branch Heights,” said Steele.
Powell said, “ Mayor Steele was wrong not to meet with us and present and discuss his plan to move and spend the Branch Heights Road Fund monies. If he had worked with us, we might have found a solution that all could live with. I did not vote to pay the list of bills he presented because most of them were marked paid already, with the funds he transferred. He has to work with us and he cannot dictate to us without any discussion.”
Asked if delays in sending water bills was contributing to the City’s financial problems, Powell said, “I think everyone will get a partial bill this week but I would not have signed off on the water project, like Mayor Steele did, until everything was worked out on the new digital self-reading water meters. This is part of the problem but until we sit down together – the Council and the Mayor – we will not be able to work out these problems.”
In other business, the Eutaw City Council:
• Approved the 2018 ‘Back to School’ Sales Tax Holiday from July 20-22, 2018;
• Approved travel to the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Orange Beach from July 29 to August 2, 2018 for Chief Derrick Coleman and Assistant Chief Beck; and
* Cancelled the regular City Council meeting set for June 26, 2018.
* The City of Eutaw will be closed July 4,5,6, 2018 for Independence Day

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

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

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

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

Eutaw City Council holds routine meeting

At its March 27, 2018 meeting the Eutaw City Council handled routine business and then adjourned into a lengthy executive session to discuss “the good name and character of individuals” or “legal matters” facing the city.
The Eutaw City Council often holds executive sessions to discuss matters in private, which means that the public and the press are not allowed to hear the discussions and deliberations. We hope the Eutaw City Council is not meeting in “executive session” to avoid public exposure of its discussions.
Mayor Raymond Steele and three Council members: Latasha Johnson, Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter, constituted a quorum. Council members: Bennie Abrams and Sheila H. Smith were absent.
The Council approved a change in the liquor license application for the Chuck Wagon to Warrior Bar and Grill, LLC. The restaurant will now be located in West End next to the convenience store on Highway 11. A formal ribbon cutting ceremony will be held once the liquor license is in place but the restaurant is open for business at its new location.
There was a discussion of the policy and usage rates for the Eutaw Civic Center, the new name of the former Eutaw National Guard Armory.

Mayor Steele said there would need to be some changes in the usage fee for profit and non-profit events to cover all expenses for the facility. Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter suggested that the Council table this issue until it could be discussed in a ‘work session’.
The Council then voted to table this matter for further discussion.
The Council voted to pay bills as presented for the past month. They also voted that the City employees be given Good Friday on March 30 as a holiday.
During the public comment period, a resident inquired about when they would receive a water bill. Mayor Steele said the water bills were delayed because the City had to complete updating of the software to read the electronic meters. As soon as this is completed the water bills would be issued and future bills should be on a regular monthly schedule.
The Council adjourned the public meeting and went into an ‘executive session’.

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.