Eutaw City Council holds routine meeting

At its regular meeting on August 22, 2023, the Eutaw City Council handled routine business for the city.

The Council heard a presentation from Tom Bowman of Business Computer Systems of Tuscaloosa for complete office IT support, including phones and security cameras, which are linked to the computer systems. The Council agreed to a contract for these services, to be negotiated with the Mayor, to include all technology related equipment at City Hall.

At the recommendation of Ralph Liverman, Financial Advisor, the Council voted to set up a separate bank account, in Merchants and Farmers Bank for road and bridge repair funds coming from the 2019 Rebuild Alabama Act and to develop a ‘Transportation Plan’ as required by the State of Alabama for the expenditure of these funds.

Liverman said he expected that $33,000 would be received in the next fiscal year (2023-24) from the Rebuild Alabama Act. The Transportation Plan calls for giving priority to repair of the Lower Gainesville Road and repairs needed on Woodfield Avenue. The priority for this plan does not change other priorities for the use of state gas tax monies, FEMA funds and others for already scheduled road, bridg and drainage repair plans previously adopted by the City Council.

The Council approved an agreement for payment of $8,445.25 in back water and sewer charges for King Village, Greene County Housing Authority. These funds will be repaid at the rate of $703.77 per month for 12 months, beginning October 1, 2023. Based on the agreement, no interest or late charges were levied to make repayment easier for GCHA.

The Council approved advertising for bids, for a company to conduct an environmental assessment of Brownfield sites, within the city limits, that could be ameliorated and improved.

In other business, the Council approved the following:

• Travel and per diem for the Mayor and Council members to attend the Alabama Association of Regional Councils (AARC) Annual Conference at
Perdido Beach on October 8-11, 2023.
• Payment of a claim of $2,323.70 for repairs to a truck, owned by Rev. Michael Barton, after a collision with a vechile driven by a city employee.
• Received financial reports on city bank accounts for the period October 1, 2022 to July 31, 2023 in Merchants and Farmers; and water accounts in Citizens Trust Bank, for the same period.
• Agreed to pay all bills incurred to the meeting date.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Johnson asked Kevin Gorskey to make a presentation on behalf of Phi-Air-Medical, a company that provides helicopter transportation of sick and injured people to area hospitals from the heliport at the Greene County Hospital. Gorskey explained that his company offers coverage for helicopter medical services for $65.00 a year membership to families in Greene County. If you join his service, you get helicopter rides to medical service and the company collects, whatever your insurance agrees to pay, instead of a potentially very high bill.

Mayor Johnson said that she would look into this service as a potential fringe benefit for city employees and to encourage other area businesses to consider the service as well.

Eutaw City Council receives update
on finances and water system

Mayor Lastasha Johnson presents awards to longtime employees of the City of Eutaw at February 8, 2022 council’s meeting. Shown L to R: Larry Sanford, (47 years service); Bennie Abrams (49), Dougles Smith (25), Linda Spencer (28), Mayor Johnson, Wilma Wedgeworth (38), Joe Powell (16) and Marcus Burton (13)

At its regular meetings on Feb. 8 and 22, the Eutaw City Council received detailed financial reports on its status relative to the budget and reports on the progress of the water system as well as making other decisions to advance the city.

Ralph Liverman, Financial Consultant to the city, reported that “for the first four months of the current fiscal year, October 1,2021 through January 31, 2022, based on its General Fund Budget, the City of Eutaw collected  $ 1,036,724 in revenues, which was 46% of its budget, and spent $766,394,
which was 34% of its budget.”

Liverman clarified that this meant that for four months, about a third of the year, the City had generated more than its projected budgeted revenues and was right on schedule with its expenditures.

Liverman presented a detailed report of the status of 24 bank accounts that the City is required to maintain to separate revenue sources, provide accurate expenditure reports and to maintain reserves for the maintenance and repair of equipment and the repayment of loans.

The City has a detailed budget and new accounting system which allows the Mayor, Council and staff to review and forecast revenues and expenses. In the past the Mayor, Council and the public did not have access to accurate and timely financial information upon which to make financial decisions concerning purchase of equipment, facilities and staffing. The new system gives the city an opportunity to make decisions in a more rational and financially sound manner.

Corey Martin reported on the water system. The system has 1,480 customers and has made significant upgrades over the past year to improve services. Collections for the current fiscal year are running above the budgetary projections. The water system used $400,000 in COVID funding to institute a digital telemetry system to monitor its wells and pipes, as well as make other improvements to the system, which will produce better results in the future.

At its February 8th meeting the Eutaw City Council approved $50,000 for purchase of a new modular office for the street, water and sewer staff, to replace the current run-down facilities. The Council approved $12,900 for a study by BAM to map the city lagoon and sludge depth to use to seek funding for improving sewage disposal. $16,592 was allocated from the Tank Repair Fund to improve Water Well No. 5 in Branch Heights. Funding was also approved for the Tango-Tango radio system for the Police Department.

At the February 22nd meeting, funds were approved for the DocuWare Cloud investment for the city to improve recordkeeping. The schedule for the completion of the GIS mapping of all city utilities was extended to May 24 to allow all data points to be appropriately mapped. City Engineer Babb stated the mapping involved establishing, digitizing and compiling 75,000 to 100,00 data points into maps that show the exact location of all city utility services.

A hearing for overgrown properties at 330 and 332 First Avenue was scheduled. If the landowners do not properly maintain their space, the city will do the work and add the cost to the ad valorem tax bill for the properties.

Doug Fulghum from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service gave a report on improvements to traffic, walking and biking trails and playground repairs at Carver Circle that his agency will be working on during the coming months, with grant funds they have secured and mad available for these purposes.

The Council adopted ordinances to approve non-exclusive franchise agreements with Charter Communications (Spectrum Southeast LLC) and Telepak Networks (C-Spire) for expansion of fiber broadband services within the city. These agreements will generate a 5% franchise fee to the city when implemented.

The Council approved an ordinance and referred it to the Planning and Zoning Boards, amending chapters of the City Code, which would bar businesses that received more than 50% of their revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages on the City Square, surrounding the old Courthouse. This would effectively ban nightclubs, sports bars and other business that sell alcoholic beverages from operating in the center of town.

The Council approved travel, per diem and registration for the Mayor, Council And clerks to attend the Alabama League of Municipalities 2022 Annual Convention in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on May 11-14, 2022.


City of Eutaw 2021-22 budget shows surplus

Mayor Johnson and staff pose with new street sweeper

News Analysis by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

At its special called meeting on October 19, 2021 the Eutaw City Council approved its budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2021 and goes to September 30, 2022. The budget covers all city operations, services and capital improvements and shows a surplus of more than a quarter million dollars for the year.

It must be noted that this is the first budget that the city has had in more than ten years. Mayor Latasha Johnson, when she was campaigning for the position said that she was going to develop a city budget, make expenditures based on the budget, report to the City Council and the public as expenses were made against the budget and have an audit of city finances each fiscal year.

Upon taking office, Mayor Johnson employed retired attorney Ralph Liverman as financial consultant to help in untangling the city’s finances and developing a budget. Liverman has been working with the Mayor and City Council for the past year in tracking down the city’s finances and developing the budget that was recently approved. Liverman also assisted in securing new accounting software, which will allow reporting of revenue and expenses based on the budget line-item categories. This will give the Mayor, Council, city staff and the public a better understanding of the city’s finances.

A summary chart of the budget is included to show the seven basic funds of the city, their revenues, expenditures and projected surplus. The summary shows $4,807,716 in revenues, $4,526,200 in expenditures and a surplus of $281,516.

There are separate pages which breakdown the details for each of the seven funds. The projections of income are based on funds received from taxes, license fees, bingo allocations, water and sewer payments and other revenues generated by the city in the past year. Expenses are based on current staffing and compensation paid, supplies used, operational and other costs based on actual and project ted amount.

The budget also includes payment of loans for the water system and other capital improvements, such as sewage line extension and lighting for the Love’s Travel Center at Exit 40 and Interstate Highways 20/59. This includes annual payments on the recent loan of $500,000 from Merchants and Farmers Bank to purchase equipment including: police cars, trucks, a knuckle-boom truck to pick up debris on the side of city streets and roads, a street-sweeper and other needed equipment.

The full detailed budget is available at City Hall and may soon be posted to the City’s website, so the residents of Eutaw can see in-depth the
financial plans, projections and results for the city. The budget will also help the Mayor and City Council to plan for new expenses, new capital needs, and new grant projects that may require matching funds.

The Mayor and the Council are to be commended for the hard work needed to clarify its finances and develop this budget planning and financial accountability tool to help guide the future directions and decisions of the city administration.