Salute to First Responders and Healthcare Workers to be held May 14-28 in Greene County

As of May 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM:
Alabama had 10,494 confirmed cases of coronavirus
with 442 deaths.
Greene County had 74
confirmed cases and 4 deaths

The Greene County Responders Committee has come together to plan a series of events over the next two weeks to honor First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers for their dedicated and selfless service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Committee seeks to recognize the services, commitment and dedication of all police, sheriff deputies, firefighters, EMT’s. E-911 staff, and staff at the Hospital, Nursing Home and health clinics.
The salute to First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers will begin with a program at Noon on Thursday, May 14, 2020 on the Old Courthouse Square. Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth will present a Proclamation to honor First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers. Other County and Municipal governing bodies and agencies will also present resolutions of support. Persons attending the program will be asked to wear masks and practice social distancing requirements.
After this short program, a group of fire trucks, with sirens blazing, followed by a caravan of local vehicles will drive through town to honor our first responders. They will stop at various places along the route to honor first responders and healthcare workers.
On Friday, May 15, 2020, the E-911 will sound their sirens at Noon to honor first responders and healthcare workers. Saturday, May 16, 2020 will be Mask Day and everyone outside their homes will be asked to wear a face covering, in the interest of safety. For Sunday, May 17, 2020, the Greene County Responders Committee is asking all church pastors to include a reference to honoring and thanking first responders and healthier workers in their sermons and church announcements.
The Greene County Responders Committee also plans a Special Love Program for Thursday, May 28, 2020, where all first responders and healthcare workers will receive a lunch and other expressions of love and support.
“The Greene County Responders Committee was set up in haste to respond to the pandemic emergency and the need to honor first responders and healthcare heroes,” said Anita Lewis, Committee Chair and Director of the Greene County Housing Authority. Spiver Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum, is Committee Organizer.
“We welcome other Greene County residents to join our Committee and bring ideas, support and funding to help us strengthen our salute to First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers. We want to develop other activities during the two week period to honor First Responders and Healthcare Workers,” said Ms. Lewis.
Other members of the Greene County Responders Committee include Mollie Rowe, Veronica Jones, Sandy Walker, J. E. Morrow, Latasha Johnson, Lorenzo French, Hodges Smith, Geraldine Walton, Shelia Smith, Rev. James Carter, Lester Brown, Joe Lee Powell, Elzora Fluker and John Zippert
Ms. Anita Lewis may be contacted through the Greene County Housing Authority office in Branch Heights at 205/372-3342.

Eutaw Mayor and Council reach agreement to pay bills; water issues remain unfinished

The Eutaw City Council met twice in the past two weeks on January 10 and January 14, to resolve differences, pay pressing bills and deal with problems with the City’s water system.
The City Council members and Mayor Steele were at an impasse at the Friday, January 10th special called meeting to find a way to pay critical outstanding bills before vendors, like Alabama Power Company, A.T. &T, water chemical companies, and other essential providers, cut off supplies and services.
Council members: Latasha Johnson, Sheila Smith, LaJeffrey Carpenter and Joe Lee Powell were concerned about authorizing the use of bingo funds to pay bills until they received assurance from Mayor Steele that the roads in King Village would be resurfaced; other policies passed by the Council, such as the “no acceptance of cash as payment for city services” were implemented; and the Water Department operations and billing were corrected.
Mayor Steele said the special street repair funds were for Branch Heights and that the streets in King Village “were not in as bad a shape as other streets in the City and did not need repair at this time.”
No agreement or consensus was reached and the January 10 meeting was adjourned without progress. The Mayor and the Council agreed to a work session on January 14 with technical support from Ralph Banks, President of Merchants and Farmers Bank and a former city council member, to try to work toward a compromise.
The January 14 meeting included a work session and a regular meeting. The Mayor and Council adopted a resolution indicating that up to $300,000 in bingo funds could be withdrawn from the dedicated account for street repairs to be transferred to the General Fund for the payment of pressing outstanding bills, provided that the City would proceed to advertise and take bids for resurfacing the streets and roads in King Village, to be paid for with gasoline tax fund accounts.
The City established a special street repair fund, with funds from bingo, provided through the Sheriff’s Department for street repairs in Branch Heights and King Village. The City then used gasoline tax funds to resurface the roads in Branch Heights, which is a permissible and legal use of gas tax funds.
The Mayor then received approval from the City Council to transfer funds from the special street repair fund to the General Fund to pay bills.
The resolution passed in the January 14th meeting made a similar budgetary adjustment to pay critical bills and still move forward with paving the roads in King Village. The Mayor and several council members indicated that they had discussed these steps with Sheriff Joe Benison and he was supportive.
The Council also asked about problems with operations and billing in the Water Department. The Mayor insisted that all problems with digital water meters had been resolved and that the billing problems were being corrected. There was a disagreement over the extent of revenue shortfall from the Water Department. The Mayor said the shortfall was in the range of $40,000 for the past year while council members set the shortfall at significantly higher – above $300,000 by their estimates.
The Council agreed to have a working session on February 18 with Kathy Horne from the Alabama Rural Water Association to discuss improvements to the water system.
Mayor Steele said he was “reluctant to turn the water system over to someone outside the city”. Council members pointed out that there suggestions and solutions were never implemented by the Mayor.
Many in the audience said they received the same water bills each month even though their usage was different at different times of the year. Ralph Banks pointed out that the garbage charge on the monthly water bills was $15 but that Waste Management was charging the city $17 a month for each garbage bin they were servicing. “The City should not continue to subsidize garbage collection for its residents,” said Banks.
In other actions, the City Council:
• tabled action to purchase new computers for the Water Department, until after the meeting with Kathy Horne in February;
• approved a contract for Alabama Power to store power poles at the parking lot of the National Guard Armory, for which it will receive $1,000 a month compensation.
• approved a Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax holiday for February 21-23, 2020.

Eutaw City Council holds Special Meeting Dec. 19 to handle unfinished business

The Eutaw City Council met Thursday, December 19, 2019 to complete business left over from a meeting on December 10, 2019. The City Council tries to meet on December 17 but failed to muster a quorum for that meeting.
The Mayor and all City Council members were present at the Special Meeting on December 19, 2019.
The Council took up the issue of a contract with Greene County Foster and Adoptive Parents Association for an office at the Carver School Community Center. The original proposal in the contract was for a $300 rent, which the group and some members of the Council felt was too high. Councilwomen Latasha Johnson moved that the contract with the Greene County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association be for $100 a month rent.
Mayor Steele and Council members pointed out that there needs to be a uniform policy for the rental and use of the Carver facility so that all organizations needing space will be treated fairly.
The Council took up a proposal to grant each city employee including police officers a one time pay increase of $200 to be paid by the General Fund and a special additional payment of $300 for each police officer to be paid by the DARE fund. This resolution was approved unanimously by the Council.
The Council reviewed a resolution for a maintenance agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation regarding roadway lighting at Exit 40 on Interstate Highway 59/20.
ALDOT will provide the lighting, which will enhance safety at the exit where there is significant truck traffic, related to the Love’s Truckstop.
The City will have to assist in maintaining the lights once they are constructed. The Council voted to approve the resolution.
The mayor in his remarks urged the Council to pay necessary bills to avoid cut off of service, equipment and supplies to the City.
Neither Mayor Steele nor the Council members raised the issue of problems with the city water system billing and finances. This matter was left to be considered and decided in future meetings in the next year.

Branch Heights residents protest water shut-offs Eutaw City Council approves motion for a state audit of the Water Department

Mayor Raymond Steele addresses Branch Heights residents.

At its October 22, 2019 regular meeting the Eutaw City Council approved a motion by a vote of 4 to 2 to conduct a state audit of the City’s water department. Council members: Latasha Johnson, Joe Lee Powell, Sheila H. Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voted in favor while Councilman Bennie Abrams and Mayor Raymond Steele voted against the motion.
The Eutaw City Council has been expressing concern and discontent with the operation of the City Water Department for more than a year. The Council concerns include problems with the operation and accuracy of the self-reporting water meters; problems with the soft wear reading the meters and creating the water bills, and a drop-off in revenues from the water department due to billing and collection problems.

The Council asked the Mayor repeatedly to correct problems with the water system and billing. The Mayor has said he is handling the problems but the Council members point out that there has not been any improvement in the operation of the department.
Many of the City’s 1,400+ water customers report that they receive the same monthly minimum water bills each month regardless of usage. Other users report not receiving bills for months and then receiving a large bill all at once, which they say they cannot afford.
Council member Latasha Brown,” I made the motion for a state audit because we have got to get to the bottom of the problems in our water department. We need an independent review of the status of the meters, billing, collection and all other aspects of the system.

City shuts off water to 50 homes in Branch Heights

Mayor Raymond Steele says in response to the concerns of the City Council for the financial stability of the City Water Department that he decided to shut-off water supplies to 50 homes in Branch Heights that were more than three months behind in their water bills.
This action against the backdrop of unresolved problems in the City Water Department caused an uproar with many Branch Heights water customers crowding City Hall on Monday, October 28, 2019 for answers to the water shut-off, which they considered arbitrary and unfair.
“We want to have regular and quality water services. We are willing to pay but we want good water to drink not cloudy water and sometimes brown or red water. We also want to be sure the meters are reading correctly – so we will be billed monthly and fairly for our water usage,” said one angry Branch Heights resident.
In response to the citizen complaints, Mayor Steele said that he would turn the water back on and require all customers to pay their back bills by the end of November or face shut-off again. When asked if he would accept payment agreements for past water charges, Mayor Steele said the City needs to be paid like other utilities. People don’t ask Spire Gas Company or Alabama Power for payment plans, they pay their bills or get cut-off.

The Mayor also agreed to flush the lines in Branch Heights to clear the water system of sediments, which make it cloudy or different colors. “We will flush the lines to clear up the water,” said Steele.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson said she is worried that the Mayor is not really looking for long-term solutions to the problems of the City Water Department and system. “We need him to respond with a plan to resolve the long term financial problems of the system, make sure all the meters are working properly, work out reasonable repayment plans with people for their past debts and operate in a fair and equitable manner with all customers.”

City Council other business

In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

• agreed to find space for the offices of Ms. Lovie Parks, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, at the Carver Community Center facilities;

• approved a resolution, above the Mayor’s objections, to advertise for bids on the roads and streets in King Village. The Mayor said that there are other streets in town, which are in more need of paving and repair than King Village. He pointed to West End Avenue, which suffered from erosion due to recent storms, as more deserving than King Village, at this time;
• approved request of Ducks Unlimited for use of Carver School Gym, for their annual fundraising banquet on November 8, 2019, which included a special liquor license for the occasion;

• approved travel for Councilman Joe Lee Powell to attend Alabama League of Municipalities committee meeting in Montgomery on November 7, 2019.

Eutaw City Council votes to use $200,000 in ‘earmarked account’ to pay necessary city expenses

At the end of a long and raucous meeting, filled with arguments and motions to table issues, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to take $200,000 from an account earmarked for Branch Heights Roads to pay necessary and accumulated bills for the city. Councilmembers: Latasha Johnson, Benny Abrams, Joe Lee Powell and Mayor Steele voted in favor while Councilmembers: Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voted against.
The City of Eutaw utilized $500,000 earlier this year from its gas tax accounts to resurface the roads in Branch Heights and place speed-bumps where needed. The Mayor said these funds were now needed to pay accumulated bills for needed items, like chemicals to treat the city water, repair costs for city equipment, and other expenses where vendors are threatening to cut the city off for non-payment of past bills.
City Attorney, Zane Willingham, said that he could find nothing in the Greene County Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing bingo that restricts or earmarks the use of funds. The Sheriff’s bingo rules and the City Council’s decision to place funds in ‘earmarked accounts’ was a policy decision that could be changed by the Eutaw City Council that initially placed restrictions on the funds but now needs them for other purposes.
Mayor Steele said the city’s problems with finances are because the city tax base has not expanded over the past thirty years. “The opening of the Love’s Truck and Travel Center in October 2019, will help to employ more people and expand our sales and fuel tax revenues. But we will need more economic expansion to fully cover the costs of city services and operations.”
The City Council also agreed to purchase a new truck (estimated cost -$35,000) and a new tractor (estimated cost $20,000) for the city street department, from the gasoline tax funds.
The Council received a report from Rob Pearson, with Mason and Gardner Accountants, who presented a draft report of budgets for the City General Fund and Water Department. He said that both budgets showed a deficit with expenses exceeding revenues. After many questions from Councilmembers it was agreed to hold a more detailed discussion of the budgets at a work session to be held on the third Tuesday in September.
Mayor Steele reported that the Alabama Rural Water Services had visited and reviewed the city’s water system including the new meters, softwear and billing systems. They found 294 problems and have corrected 200 of them. “They plan to be back soon to correct the remaining accounts and get the system operating properly,” said Steele.
The Council tabled a number of controversial issues that come up regularly at meetings, such as the policy not to accept cash, undercover tags on city vehicles, use of city facilities for meetings and activities of non-city agencies and organizations, drainage repairs on private property, salary increases for staff, disposition of the Assistant Police Chief and others.

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.”

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 pays bills, approves policies and agrees to July 20-22 Sales Tax Holiday

In its regular meeting on March 13, 2018, the Eutaw City Council agreed to pay bills and enact some important policy decisions.
The Council agreed to transfer $50,000 from its Capital Improvement Fund to the General Fund to pay routine bills and obligations for the month of February and those received during the first part of March.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith voted against the transfer of the funds, which she feels should be retained and used only for capital improvements as originally planned. The funds in the city’s Capital Improvement Fund were derived from electronic bingo funds provided to the City under the administration of Constitutional Amendment 743, permitting bingo in Greene County.
The Council approved a policy for the provision of public records to individuals, businesses and organizations and a form to request public records such as meeting minutes, ordinances, licenses, permits, front side of arrest records; original bids and documents on the awarding of contracts; and names, titles, resumes and compensation of city employees. There will be a $25 per hour research fee and 25 cents a page for any copies to be made as a result of request for information.
Agreements between the City and the Greene County Emergency Management Agencies to provide the City Hall and National Guard Amory facilities when needed, in an emergency, as health care and community shelter facilities, in the event of a biological, chemical or other attack on Greene County, were approved by the Eutaw City Council.
The City Council also agreed to approve the July 20-22, 2018 weekend, as a Sales Tax Holiday for the purchase of school related clothing and supplies before the start of school in August.
Mayor Steele reported that he was closing out the water improvement project and that the County Extension Service had helped plant crepe myrtle trees around the lagoon and other places in the city

In the public comments section of the meeting, Sheila Smith asked that the city utility workers check Gilbert Norwood’s water meter at 509 Johnson Street since it seems to be too deep in the ground. Latasha Johnson asked for water for gardens. LaJeffrey Carpenter said there were continuing drainage problems on O’Neal Street and there was a need for a refuse site within Raintree Apartments so trash was not placed at the roadside.
A request was made by the Cub Scouts to get use of the National Guard Armory on Saturday, March 31 for an Easter Carnival, at the non-profit organization facility use rate. This was approved.
Molly Rowe, Director of the Eutaw Housing Authority reported that some of the buildings were re-roofed in Carver Circle and that the City Inspector was to be commended for working with the contractors on this project. The City Housing Authority held a poster art contest around the theme “What Home Means To Me”. Ms. Rowe requested to display some of the artwork in City Hall. The Mayor agreed to the art exhibit provided that non-paint removing tape was used to hang the artwork.
Evelyn Isaac Esson complained that the management at the Eutaw Elderly Village was threatening residents and had placed bed-bug infested furniture on the street without proper notice that may have endangered the public. Jerome Esson asked the city to check his new water meter to determine if it was correctly installed.
David Spencer tried to be recognized for a public comment but the Mayor did not recognize him.

Eutaw hires Katherine Bir as City Clerk

 

Mayor and Secretary

 

Eutaw City Mayor Raymond Steele and City Clerk Katherine Bir.

In a called meeting held Friday, February 2, 2018 at 2:00 p.m., the Eutaw City Council hired Katherine Bir as City Clerk and transferred Grace Sanford to the City Magistrate’s position. The Magistrate’s position was held by Daedra Thomas, who resigned November 22, 2017. Bir and Sanford will assume their respective positions Monday, Feb. 5.
Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele stated that Ms. Bir stood out among approximately 20 individuals in the applicant pool. She holds a M.A. Degree in accounting and has held previous jobs in that area of expertise.
“She will be able to assist us with our budgeting process as well as with our bookkeeping,” Steele said.
Bir is a former resident of Eutaw and currently lives in Northport. She indicated that she is planning to relocate to Eutaw.
When an inquiry was made as to the public announcement of the City Council’s call meeting, City Attorney Ken Aycock stated that a 24 hour posting is all that was necessary. The council members, mayor and attorney recessed to executive session prior to formerly voting to hire the new personnel.
Council members present included LaTasha Johnson, Bennie Abrams, Joe L. Powell, Sheila Smith and LaJeffery Carpenter.

Eutaw City Council concerned about financial recordkeeping and reporting

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the Eutaw City Council was unable to get a second and vote on a motion made by Councilman Joe Lee Powell to pay bills for the month of August.
Three Council members present, LaTasha Johnson, Jeffrey Carpenter and Sheila H. Smith expressed misgivings about paying the bills without a more detailed financial statement and record of the City’s finances and bank accounts. Councilman Bennie Abrams was absent and was not present to second or vote on the motion. Had Abrams been present, the motion may have resulted in a tie vote on paying the bills.
Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson said she sent Mayor Steele a letter asking for specific information about bills and bank accounts especially the funds coming from electronic bingo. Councilman Carpenter said he has been pushing for many years for the city to have a budget and pay bills based on a plan and a budget.

Mayor Steele said the City of Eutaw did not have its records in proper form to provide the reports and budget that were being requested. Steele said Council members could come to City Hall “at any time and request that the City Clerk show them any bills, bank statements or other financial data they want to see.”
Steele said that he had discussed this with James Gardner, the City’s CPA and accounting firm and was advised that additional funds were needed to train and support City Hall staff to enter information in the computer system to generate the needed reports. Steele said that he would invite Gardner to speak with the Council at a work session on Monday, September 18, 2017 to explain the situation.
At the Council Work Session, Gardner explained that the last audit for the City of Eutaw was done by him in FY2012 and that a Financial Compilation Report and Financial Statement was done for fiscal year 2014, through September 30, 2014. There have been no financial statements or reports done by his firm for the ensuing fiscal years of 2015, 2016 and 2017. Bank statements and files of receipts and expenditures are on file in the City Hall, which could be used to construct a financial statement and reports.
Gardner said that he would send an estimate of the cost to do these unaudited compilation statements by the next City Council meeting. Gardner said it would cost $4,000 to $7,000 to train City Hall staff to enter financial information in a modified QuickBooks system, for the city’s multiple accounts, starting October 1, 2017. Once this training was done and the system was properly maintained he could do an audited statement for the FY2018, which ends September 30, 2018.
Mayor Steele said that he would bring a report from the CPA firm on recordkeeping, accounting and financial reporting to the next meeting for the Council to make a formal decision.
At the Council Work Session, Mayor Steele reported that the City water system expansion project was moving toward conclusion. More new digitized self-reporting water meters will still be installed, including individual meters in Carver Circle taking the place of a single master meter.
Steele said the new water tank would be painted by the end of October and put into operation by the end of the year. This would allow the power pole to be moved from its temporary location in the street near the Courthouse to its permanent place. The Mayor also indicated that the water line contractor would return to fix other areas that were affected by the construction.
The Mayor indicated that the City’s knuckle-boom truck to cut and remove trees from city roadways was in the shop and would require $18,000 to $20,000 to repair. He reported that both City backhoes were also in the shop for repair and that the city workers were doing their best to pick up branches piled up on the side of roads and streets.
Steele said, “Our equipment is very old and in need of repair and upgrading. We are going to do our best to prepare for the Tour of Homes, scheduled for October 7 and 8, in Eutaw.”
At the September 12 Council meeting, Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith confronted Mayor Steele and tried to make a motion to deny the Mayor the use of a new 2017 Tahoe, he uses for conducting city business. Smith said the vehicle could be better used by the Police Department.
Steele said he needed the car to show visitors interested in the community, a positive image of the community. He also said he needed a reliable vehicle to travel to meetings to seek resources for the city. The Mayor suggested that Smith was taking these actions against him, as personal retribution, because he had requested that she turn in her city issued cell phone. The Mayor was successful in ruling the motion out-of-order but the issue lingers and may come up again in future meetings.