Eutaw City Council approves ordinance for wearing face masks in public to reduce spread of coronavirus

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

After a contentious debate, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2, at its regular meeting on June 23, to support an ordinance requiring people to wear masks when they are in public in the city. The ordinance was supported by Mayor Steele and Councilmembers: Latasha Johnson, Bennie Abrams and LaJeffrey Carpenter; it was opposed by Joe Lee Powell and Sheila Smith.
Mayor Steele argued, “We are passing this ordinance to encourage people to protect themselves and others from spreading the virus. Just like the ordinance to prohibit larger group gatherings, we are going to limit enforcement efforts, but we want people to know the value and benefits of face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus. We want our citizens to respect each other and care for their health.”
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson said, “Based on my experience as a nurse, I know that face coverings will help save lives. Other cities in Alabama, like Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, have adopted similar ordinances on masks and we should do this in Eutaw, to protect our people.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell argued, “ We do not know if masks are really effective in stopping COVID-19. This is an unfair requirement to impose on people. We are asking poor people to buy face coverings. We should use some of the $147,000 we received in CARES money from the State of Alabama to provide masks, if we pass this ordinance.”
Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter said, “ I have been hospitalized for several weeks with COVID, so I know it’s serious impact. If we allow people to get a warning ticket for their first offense and then start fines, I will vote for the ordinance.”
The ordinance was amended with Carpenter’s suggested change and approved by a vote of 4 to 2.
The Mayor proposed another ordinance to prohibit electronic bingo gaming within the city limits of Eutaw. He said that he had learned that a group was exploring the use of the closed gas station across from the Love’s Truckstop for a bingo parlor and did not feel this was a good idea.

Under questioning from the Council members, the Mayor did not reveal the identity of the group or whether they had a licensee to operate bingo in Greene County. The Council voted to table this matter until more information was available.
The Council had a lengthy discussion of putting out bids for storm shelters within the city. Councilman Powell argued that funds were available for two shelters, one in Branch Heights and one on Boligee Street. Councilwoman Johnson stated that ”The houses in Branch Heights are brick and better protected against storms. The shelters should be built in areas where people are living in trailer homes, that are most vulnerable to tornadoes and storms.”
Other council members said that five shelters were needed, one in each district. Mayor Steele said he was seeking Federal funds from FEMA and other agencies for storm shelters. Councilwoman Smith suggested using the old National Guard Armory as a storm shelter but others said it would need to be extensively fortified to serve as a shelter.
The Council approved a motion by Powell and Carpenter, “to bid out storm shelters, with at least two, one in Branch Heights and on Boligee Street, utilizing existing funds in the Branch Heights, Capital Improvements account and other accounts of the city.”

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

• Selected Mattie Atkins, former Circuit Clerk, to be Elections Manager for the August Municipal Elections. The qualifying fees were set at $50 for Mayor and $25 for City Council candidates.

• Passed a Memorial Resolution honoring James (Jamie) Oliver Banks II, who recently died, for his contributions to the city as the owner of Banks and Company and his role in selling the land to Love’s for the location of their truckstop.

• Forwarded a number of claims against the City, most from residents of Raintree Apartments about sewage problems, to the City Attorney and insurance company for resolution.

• Agreed to restore the speed bums in King Village, now that the streets are repaved.

• Advertise for bids to repave M& M Drive.

• Tabled a resolution for hazard pay bonuses for all city employees until the Council could get more clarity from the State of Alabama on the use of $147,000 in CARES funds awarded to the City for the coronavirus pandemic.

• Approved payment of bills by the City based on funds available.

• Heard a report from Mayor Steele that the project to extend sewage to the Love’s Truckstop was successfully completed and closed.

• Mayor Steele reported that the Streetscape Project I, with ALDOT funding, to improve the sidewalks and lighting on the outside of the Old Courthouse Square was still moving forward. There were some concerns raised by the Alabama Historic Society in approving the plans but these issues are being resolved by the project engineer. The Mayor said that construction on this project should begin in three to four months.

• Concerns were raised by Council members about various roads and streets in the city in need of repair due to storm erosion and washouts. Mayor Steele said he was working on restoring FEMA funding for these repairs.

The Eutaw City Council set its next meeting for Wednesday, July 15, 2020, at 6:00 PM at the Carver School gym to accommodate more public visitors in a setting where there is room for social distancing due to the pandemic.

Nov. 1 is deadline to apply for an Absentee Ballot for coming election

Thursday, November 1, 2018 is the last date to apply for an Absentee Ballot in the upcoming November 6 General Election. You must apply by mail (alabamavotes.gov) or in person at the Circuit Clerk’s office to receive an Absentee Ballot. The Absentee Ballot must be returned in person or postmarked by November 5, 2018, the day before Election Day on November 6, 2018. If you know you will not be able to get to vote on November 6, 2018, you can walk into the Circuit Clerk’s office and vote absentee until November 1st. As of Tuesday, October 23, there have been 176 applications for absentee ballots in the coming election according to Mattie Atkins, Circuit Clerk and Absentee Elections manager. “ I expect we will have over 200 absentee ballots cast by the deadline. This is in line with our voting history over the past few elections in Greene County,” said Atkins. “There is no reason why everyone should not vote,” said Lorenzo French, Chair of the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee. “If you are registered in Greene County, but live away, or are attending school, or are sick and homebound, or work on a job which will not let you get back home in time to vote, you still have time to apply for and vote absentee,” said French. There are 7,090 people registered and qualified to vote in the November 6 election according to the Greene County Board of Registrars. In recent elections, 3,500 voters or around 50% turned out to vote, while Greene County had among the highest percentage turnouts in the state, we were far from a record-breaking performance. “This is a critical election in Alabama, all of the major offices in state government in Montgomery including Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, four Supreme court Justices, every state Senator and Representative in the Legislature, all of our Congress-persons and many local officials will be on the ballot,” said Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama. “We need the highest turnout that we can get. Every voter must be concerned and motivated to vote. During the Civil Rights Movement, people died and were beaten for working for the right to vote,” said Spiver W. Gordon, veteran activist. Among the five major reasons people gave for not voting and the responses follow.

• MY VOTE DOESN’T MATTER. Not true. “One vote can make a difference,” says Common Cause, a grassroots organization whose mission is upholding the core values of American democracy. “Many voters, together deciding they will make a difference, can change an election.” The group notes that some local, state and presidential elections have been decided by only “a handful of votes.” Your vote is important for influencing public policy decisions. According to the 2015 report “Why Voting Matters,” voting “plays a significant role in the distribution of government resources as well as the size of government and who benefits from public policies.” The lower voter turnout of young, poor, minority or otherwise marginalized groups has a definite impact on how they’re represented in government.

• I DON’T LIKE THE CANDIDATES AND HATE THE “LESSER OF TWO EVILS” STRATEGY. If you really didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — they were the most unpopular presidential candidates in recent history — you could’ve instead voted for a third party, independent or write-in candidate. It’s important to also vote for the other candidates on your ballot, including those running for Congress and your state legislature. As noted above, your vote truly will influence these lawmakers.As for the lesser of two evils strategy, you should consider what’s at stake in this election — including important issues like gun control, climate change, affordable health care and much more — and vote to support what you believe in.

• IT’S TOO RAINY/SNOWY/HOT/COLD OUTSIDE. Studies have found that Republicans usually win on rainy Election Days. “The traditional Democratic base tends to include lower-income people and the elderly,” explains Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University. “Both of those demographic groups have a hard time getting to the polls.” One way of avoiding having to venture out in inclement weather on Election Day is to apply for an absentee ballot. You can mail in your completed ballot.

•IT TAKES TOO LONG. I HATE WAITING IN LINE. Voting takes less than 14 minutes on average, yet it can affect the next four or more years. To save time at your polling place, complete and bring your sample ballot with you. If possible, go when it’s not too busy — which is usually in the middle of either the morning or afternoon. Avoid going early in the morning or in the early evening, which are usually the busiest times.

•I DON’T KNOW IF I’M REGISTERED. You can check online to see if you’re registered to vote at your current address. Go to a website like Vote.org and select your state to get started.