L to R: Mayor Raymond Steele and Mayor Pro Tem Sheila H. Smith.
The Eutaw City Council met on November 22, 2016 for its first full meeting since the election to consider business. All members were present.
LaTasha Johnson moved to amend the agenda to consider election of a Mayor Pro Tem of the Council to serve in the absence of the Mayor. This decision was left over from the Council organizational meeting on November 7, 2016. Johnson then proposed rotating Pro Tem for a year’s term, starting with Sheila H. Smith, representing District 4 and then moving to the other districts in numerical order. This motion was approved and Sheila H. Smith was designated as Mayor Pro Tem.
City Attorney Ken Aycock brought up approval of a contract with Co-Bank, a Denver based agricultural cooperative bank, to provide interim construction financing for the $3.1 million loan and grant water project for the City approved by USDA Rural Development. Co-Bank is providing the financing during construction and USDA RD will pay off the construction loan once the project is completed according to the proposed and designed specifications.
Co-Bank’s interest is based on a commercial banking index rate that changes as interest rates rise but is currently close to 1%, which is a very reasonable rate.
The City Council moved to unanimously approve the construction financing agreement with Co-Bank, which was the last remaining paperwork hurdle before the low bidders can start the project.
Mayor Steele introduced a resolution modifying the pay rates of several positions including City Clerk, Water Clerk, Assistant Police Chief and others. The salary adjustments were approved but not shared with the public. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith urged that the City Council consider all the police officers for a raise in the future. The Democrat has submitted a written request for the City’s salary schedule for all employees.
The Council approved the purchase of two used vehicles from ALDOT for use by the City’s Public Works Department. The Council paid outstanding bills and claims for September and October 2016.
The Council approved the travel of the City Clerk to a Municipal Training Conference in Florence, Alabama from November 30 to December 2, 2016. The Council also approved the selection of Walter Beck as Assistant Police Chief.
Mayor Steele brought up the issue of filling seats on the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. In the public comment period later in the meeting, James Powell said it was important to fill these positions so that the Eutaw and Greene County Housing Authorities could proceed with discussion of a merger, which HUD is actively pushing and supporting. “The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants one unified housing board to work through to improve public housing, including Branch Heights, in the city and the county,” said Powell.
Mayor Steele also brought up the need for a resolution for the City of Eutaw to accept the roads and streets in Branch Heights as a first step to finding the resources to solve the problems in Branch Heights. In response to questions, Steele said, “we need an official resolution to clear up any confusion on who owns these streets; and then we can work to find the resources to fix them. The Council asked Attorney Aycock to prepare a resolution for the next meeting.
The Mayor reported that the City water bills were 5 to 6 months behind and that citizens would soon get a water bill for three months and then in January 2017 a water bill catching up on all past due usage. “We will give residents and businesses grace time to pay these water bills, if time and payment plans are needed. We must get the water billing up to date. We are working diligently to make repairs and fix leaks in the system while waiting for the major new steps, like the digital self-reporting meters, that come with the USDA water project.”
Mr. Babb, City Engineer reported on building permits and progress on the resurfacing of Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43.
At its regular meeting on June 14, 2016 the Eutaw City Council voted on several important resolutions affecting the City.
The Council heard a report from Torris Babb, city engineer and building inspector that the plans for the resurfacing of Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43 have been approved and scheduled for bid advertisement This weeks Legal Notice section includes the formal solicitation for bids on this project, which is estimated to cost $ 500,000.
Engineer Babbs also reported that he had approved building permits for T-Mobile and A. T. &T to do work in the city related to communications and cell phone services.
The Council also approved a “Resolution Directing City Employees to Refrain from Entering Private Property.” The resolution states that, “No City Employee may perform work, while on City time, or allow the use of City equipment, upon any property that is not owned by the City of Eutaw, or covered by a current valid right-of-way or easement. The purpose of this resolution was to prevent cutting of grass, drainage work and other city services on private property.
The resolution contains exceptions for the City to act and go upon private property in an emergency situation or where needed to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Eutaw.
Babbs also explained that he had registered the plat map of the new Hattie Cove Subdivision on city land bordering Harris and Furse Avenues below the Eutaw Activity Center, in the Greene County Courthouse (Probate Map Book 4, page 2). There are four lots adjoining the streets that are available for sale now and once these are marketed the proceeds will be used to open streets and utilities for seven more lots.
Mayor Hattie Edwards said the lots were selling for $8,000 each and two have already been optioned for housing development. Persons interested in the remaining lots should contact Mayor Edwards at City Hall to purchase them. A formal set of covenants indicating the rules for the subdivision will also be filed in the Courthouse to govern use of the lots.
The Council approved bills and claims for the month of May 2016 and the meeting was adjourned in less than an hour.
Chief Coleman and Drug Task Force Commander, Clint Sumlin
At its regular meeting on April 26, 2016, the Eutaw City Council approved a resolution clarifying the procedure for waiving or reducing the usage fee for the City’s National Guard Armory on Mesopotamia Street by non-profit organizations.
Currently the fee is $250 for a meeting or social event. The amount is higher for activities that are raising funds. The new resolution clarifies that to receive reduced cost or a waiver, a group or organization, must submit an application for a fee waiver or reduction. The applying group must attach a copy of their IRS 501(c) 3 charitable status; and be an “organization, group or individual who have a history of providing material items to the community, such as food, clothing, health care and the like”; or, a funeral repast for local residents. “The City is willing to reduce the fee for qualified community groups that will benefit residents of the City of Eutaw, but we are now, as of the adoption of this resolution, keeping files and records to make sure that the facility is used properly,” said Mayor Hattie Edwards.
The Mayor announced that the ALDOT project to resurface Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43 is proceeding according to plans and $750 was spent on a permit to cross the Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks that cross Prairie Avenue.
The project is scheduled to be bid and constructed over the next few months.
Police Chief Derrick Coleman introduced Clint Sumlin, who is Area Commander for the area’s Criminal Drug Task Force. Sumlin spoke about the work of the Task Force in interdicting the drug trade in and around our area. “The Task Force invites local law enforcement officers to ride with them and participate in activities as part of our training efforts. We do not provide insurance for the officers, who are volunteering, but we expect their home base department will help with this,” said Sumlin. He said the Drug Task Force was needed and would help keep everyone safer.
Theresa Beeker addressed the City Council about organizing volunteers to help keep the City Park and tennis court in town, next to the Episcopal Church, clean so children and their parents can use it. She suggested that each council-member organize people in their district to clean and patrol the park one week a month, on a rotating basis. Mayor Edwards said that they would take this under consideration at a future meeting.
Carl Davis asked the police to help residents in Branch Heights to stop young people from shooting each other and into vehicles and homes. “These young people know that they cannot be held in the adult jail so they are shooting guns and provoking the police. We need to work with them and their parents to stop the violence,” said Davis.
At their regular meeting on May 24, 2016, the Eutaw City Council approved a schedule of qualifying fees for the municipal elections to be held in August. The qualifying fee for the Mayor’s office will be $50 and the fee to qualify to run for City Council will be $25.
The elections will be held on August 23, 2016 and the first official date to qualify will be after July 5, 2016.
The Eutaw City Council had a second reading of a Resolution on Demolition of Condemned Buildings. This resolution provides for the City to invoice property holders for the demolition costs of abandoned, burned or otherwise uninhabitable buildings in the city. A resolution listing three properties that were recently demolished: 1. 152 Vera Vista Street ($2,000); 2. 104 Elm Street ($2,500); and 3. 304 Kirksey Avenue ($3,000) was approved by the City Council. If these properties are sold, the City expects to recover its funds.
Council members said there were several other buildings in the city that also need to go through this process since their owners have abandoned them and they are a health risk to the neighboring dwellings and residents.
The Council also agreed that they would not go on private property to cut grass. They will cut grass and remove trash on city right-of-ways but not go on private property. Property owners will be informed of the need to care for their own lots and areas. Ken Aycock, City Attorney, was asked to draft a resolution clarifying this issue for passage at the next Council meeting.
In other business, the Eutaw City Council:
• approved submission of the Municipal Water Pollution Prevention (MWPP) annual report to State of Alabama Department of Environmental Management;
• approved the first reading of a Sub-Division Purchasing Agreement for housing lots to be sold by the City;
• approved a resolution to ALDOT in support of a state project to replace the traffic lights on all four corners of the Courthouse Square in Eutaw.
Mayor Hattie Edwards reported that she was still working on the major projects with USDA for improving the water system and fire protection and with ALDOT to repave Prairie Avenue.
City Inspector Torris Babb reported that the Prairie Avenue project was moving toward bids. He also reported that as he traveled around the city, he found a number of construction and repair projects that had not secured the proper building permits from the City for work that was underway. He urged the contractors to secure the proper permits and meet city regulations.
Council members reported on various street and drainage problems in their districts in need of attention and care by city staff.