Eutaw City Council approves application for $500,000 to repair roof at old Carver School

The Eutaw City Council met for a partially virtual meeting on August 24, 2021, that was also broadcast to the public on Facebook-Live due to the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in Greene County. The Eutaw City Council received reports from a number of city departments and paid regular bills for the month. The Council approved a resolution for Mayor Latasha Johnson to apply for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the State ADECA office, to repair the roof on the Robert H. Young Community Center, formerly the Carver Elementary School. The city acquired the school from the Board of Education several years ago and uses it to house non-profit and small business entities. There are no matching fund requirements for this grant. The grant is due before the next regular meeting of the Council. Corey Martin for the Water Department reported that the department had collected $1,039,398.32 in water, sewer and garbage payments since the October 1, 2020 start of the fiscal year. For the last full fiscal year, the Water Department collected $585,592.17, a difference of $453,806.15. The Department has 1,394 customers and added 8 customers this month in the city and 9 customers on Boligee routes. The Water Department has been working to find and fix meters, find and repair leaks and generally to improve the system to increase revenues and reduce water leakage. This includes collection of past due receivables and closing accounts for non-payment or unwillingness to agree to payment plans to settle past-due accounts. Torris Babb, City Engineer reported on his work to evaluate streets that need major repaving work to be funded by state and local funds. He urged the Council to approve a contract for a company to clean out the sludge in the city lagoon to allow its pumps and pipes to work more efficiently. Babb also reported on FEMA financed drainage repairs, a new building code ordinance, GPS mapping of city utilities and other work. Babb also said he secured permission from ALDOT to close a bridge at the end of Springfield Avenue until it could be redone. Linda Spencer, Magistrate and Court Clerk reported that she was working on plans and procedures to hold City Court virtually beginning next month in September. Ralph Liverman, fiscal consultant presented the city with a financial report for the period October 1,2020 through July 31, 2021. The report listed numerous bank accounts that the city has and transactions made during the fiscal year. Liverman also reported he was working on a budget for the coming 2021-2022 fiscal year and wanted to review this in detail with the finance committee. At this time, subject to changes, Liverman projects a budget with $4,057,856 in revenues and $3,616,191 in expenditures with a surplus of $441,665. Liverman said, “This budget would allow for payment of all long-term loan payments like the water system, lighting at the Interstate Exit, and matching fund requirements for various grants. It also would allow us to consider a leasing arrangement for four new police cars, a knuckle-boom truck, a street sweeper and several pick-up trucks needed to improve the ability of the city’s staff to serve residents.” Mayor Johnson reported that negotiations were on-going with IRS to remove a tax lien on the city for employee taxes during the period 2015 to 2020. “We settled with IRS on some years – 2016 and 2017 – and we are awaiting the final charges for 2018 and 2019, to settle this debt,” she said. The Mayor also reported that she had spoken with Waste Management about delays in collecting city garbage. The company says it has staff shortages resulting in delays in garbage collection. The mayor asked City Attorney Zane Willingham to communicate with Waste Management in writing about their service and contractual violations. In other business, the City Council:

• Approved payment of $1,200 each, to three employees, who were sick with COVID-19, from remaining CARES funds.

• Approved travel for city staff to a training for Municipal Clerks and Administrators in Orange Beach in November; and for a BBI Software conference in Meridian, Mississippi on September 2, 2021.

• Approved a contract of $12,720 with Supreme Electrical LLC to replace light fixtures with LED fixtures throughout City Hall, from the Capital Improvement Fund.

Eutaw City Council approves water leak insurance; re-enacts mask mandate

Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson (center) and members of the Eutaw City Council show the hand sanitizer available for distribution to residents
Officer Andrew Clements and
Police Chief Tommy Johnson

At its regular meeting on August 10, 2021, the Eutaw City Council approved a proposal from SERVLine to add an insurance of up to $500 for water leakages on the customer side of the meter. Eutaw water customers will be able to opt-out of this $1.75 a month charge on their water bills, if they do not want the coverage.

This insurance, which costs $1.75 per month ($21 per year), will be added to customer’s water bills, provides up to $500 if a leak develops on the customer’s side of the water meter, which is paid to cover the high water bills for water-loss in a leak. Some of the high utility bills incurred in the city have come from undiscovered and prolonged leaks. 

The payment is subject to a deductible, based on the average water bill for the past twelve months. This means even if you have a water leak covered by the insurance, you will still have to pay your basic monthly bill and the insurance will help pay for the extra water used that was caused by the leak.

SERLine will send a letter to all City of Eutaw water customers informing them of the insurance program before the $1.75 charge is added to all of the water bills. Customers may opt-out of the insurance program, that is to say you must inform the City’s Water Department that you do not want to be covered by the insurance, during the initial three months of the coverage period and at specific designated times during the year.

Many City Council members expressed concerns that customers would not understand the additional $1.75 monthly insurance charge on their bills or that they can opt-out of the program if they do not want the coverage. Mayor Johnson assured the Council that all water customers would be informed of this insurance coverage and monthly charge by letter from the company and by an advisory printed on their bills. 

The Council then voted unanimously for instituting this SERVLine water leak insurance program. This program will start soon, so look for your notice in the mail and your opportunity to opt-out, if you do not wish to pay for this additional insurance coverage.

The Eutaw City Council agreed to re-impose a mask mandate for the City of Eutaw requiring citizens to wear masks inside city businesses and in places where there are large numbers of people gathered together inside or outside. The city adopted this mandate until its first regular meeting on September 14, 2021. 

The Council may extend the mask mandate at that point depending on the conditions of community spread of the coronavirus, especially the more contagious Delta variant, which is spreading throughout the state, primarily to unvaccinated people. The Mayor and Council urged all adults and children above the age of 12 to be vaccinated. Vaccination appointments may be made at the Greene County Health System, Mills Pharmacy and the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

The mayor reported that the City of Eutaw had received a pallet of hand sanitizer, to be distributed to Greene County agencies, businesses and residents. The Black Belt Community Foundation informed the city of the availability of these free resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic and the city staff acted to secure these resources.

The mayor said a CPA in Tuscaloosa is preparing audits for the fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020, which will enable the city to seek grants and loans to acquire new equipment, such as a knuckle-boom truck to pick up 

fallen trees and other trash on the side of the streets. The mayor said she has spoken with Waste Management, who said they were having difficulties in picking up garbage in the city on schedule because of a lack of personnel. The company improved garbage collections for several weeks but has fallen behind schedule again.

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council: 

• Approved travel for Linda Spencer, Court Clerk and Antonio Pearson, Magistrate, to attend training.

• Approved Corey Martin, Water Operator to attend training in Ozark, Alabama.

 

• Approved amending the Personnel Handbook to allow part-time employees to apply for health insurance, after they complete the 90-day probationary period.

• Police Chief Tommy Johnson reported that Andrew Clements, a new officer had complete training at the Police Academy and was joining the city’s police force. He also announced that he was holding another coffee and donuts session at Branch Heights, on Thursday August 12, to talk with people about improving the policing of Eutaw.

• Approved payment of outstanding bills.