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 raises for police and water department

Mayor Latasha Johnson, Council members and staff present check for $30,000 to support E-911 dispatch and other emergency services. Funds came from the City’s American Rescue Act funding.

At Tuesday night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting, the members went through an extensive agenda mostly distributing funds and buying necessary items with General Funds and special funds provided to the city under the American Rescue Plan passed by Democrats in Congress and signed by President Biden. Fiscal Advisor, Ralph Liverman reported that the City had raised $577,000 in General Fund revenues in nine months since the October 1st fiscal year had begun, compared with $525,000 in revenues forecast in the budget. “This means the city will earn additional revenues beyond what we budgeted and the Council can approve additional needed expenditures,” said Liverman. Liverman also reported that $800,914 in revenues from the City’s Water Department for nine months, ending June 30, 2021 was substantially greater than the budgeted amount and more than last year’s full collections. Liverman said Corey Martin, Water Department Supervisor had corrected problems with meters and leaks, raised collections, and secured a license as a sewer operator as well as having a water operator’s license, required to operate the city’s systems. At the Mayor’s suggestion, Liverman recommended that the Council approve a raise of $4.00 an hour for Corey Martin. The Council approved the raised based on the recommendation. It was noted at the end of September 2021, the city would no longer have to pay another contracted company $1,900 for supervising the sewer system, since Martin’s new sewage license would qualify him to play this role. The Mayor asked that the Council approve a $1.00 an hour raise for all police officers which would raise the minimum pay for certified officers to $15.00 an hour. Chief Tommy Johnson commented, “This rate of pay is still low in comparison with other cities, like Moundville and Linden who are paying $17 an hour. Some cities like Demopolis are offering a $5,000 signing bonus. Councilwoman Jacqueline Stewart said she supported a pay raise but it should be based on an evaluation of the individual officer’s work record. “Some officers may deserve more than a $1.00 an hour raise and some less,” she said. Mayor Johnson said let’s give this raise, because it is in the budget already and look again in six months to get an evaluation of all police officers for additional adjustments in pay. The Council and mayor unanimously approved this pay raise for the police. The Eutaw Council also approved spending $97,208 for a well improvement telemetry program to put all wells on a digitally monitored system instead of using a telephonic warning system, which does not provide the information on a as detailed or timely basis. They approved $3,483 a year for the On-Solve Community Notification System, to inform residents of emergencies and problems with the city utilities. They also approved $21,175 for new software for bookkeeping, cemetery maintenance and business licenses; $8,896 for purchase of body cameras for the police; and $1, 980 for replacement of the light fixtures in the City Council meeting chamber. Most of these expenditures will be paid by the American Rescue Plan funds or from the Capital Improvement budget. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

•Approved a resolution to set up a Water Department Revenue Account and ending the Water Deposit Account, since there are no records of water deposits paid. If a resident can produce a receipt for a water deposit they will be reimbursed. New water customers will be required to pay a one-time $100 water connection and account fee. •Adopted a written Water Leak and Bill Dispute Policy.

•Approved several members of the staff to attend an Alabama Rural Water Training in Tuscaloosa on July 15, 2021

•Approved a resolution to set up a bank account for currency seized by police in raids and arrests.

•Approved the creation of a police sub-station at the Robert H. Young Community Center (old Carver School). •Approved paying bills. •Approved a contribution of $30,000 to support E-911.

City of Eutaw receives $309,083 payment from American Rescue Plan for coronavirus needs and infrastructure improvements

Police Chief Tommy Johnson and Mayor Latasha Johnson award Certificate of Appreciation to 7-year-old Draylon Davis at the June 8, 2021 City Council meeting for his courage, bravery and presence of mind to call for help for his mother, Marquita Davis, who was having a medical emergency. “His calm response in contacting help probably saved his mother’s life,” said the Chief.

 

During last night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Latasha Johnson announced that the city had received a payment of $309,083.08 from the American Rescue Plan Act federal funds for states and cities to cover coronavirus expenses and invest in infrastructure improvements to improve the city for the future. This is the first half of the funding the City expects to get from the ARPA funds. The Council approved a $2,500 one-time loyalty payment to all city employees who continued to work and provide essential services during the pandemic. “These funds will go to our 40 employees who willingly gave their support and services during a difficult time. They enabled us to keep City Hall open and continue to provide basic services like water, sewer, streets and garbage collection,” said Mayor Johnson. The Council also approved a salary increase to $1,500 a month for City Judge Joshua J. Swords. A $500 increase was approved for City Attorney Zane Willingham. The Mayor said the rest of the funds will be allocated to improvements in the City’s infrastructure, like street repairs, a telemetry system for the Water Department and other projects which will help the long-term development of the City. Mayor Johnson also reported that with the help of the City’s financial adviser, Ralph Liverman and its CPA, the City reached an agreement with IRS to pay $19,715 in tax liabilities for 2015. Records and payments for tax years 2019 and 2020 were accepted. The City was required to file IRS 941 Quarterly Tax Reports for 2018 and the IRS would calculate the taxes due. Mayor Johnson said, “Once we submit all the requested information, the IRS will be able to determine our tax liability for that year. We feel it will be less that the $230,000 previously discussed since some of the taxes for this period have already been paid. Once we reach an agreement on 2018 then IRS will lift the lien against the City of Eutaw.” In other business, at the June 8 and 22 meetings, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved the Water Department Identity Theft Prevention and Response Plan, since the city is accepting credit card payments on line, this will help protect people’s confidential information.

• Approved contract leasing the city’s farmer’s market space for ten years to the Greene and Sumter Farmer’s Market Cooperative for a nominal amount.

• Approved a contract between the City of Eutaw and the West Alabama Food Bank for the distribution of food to people in need.

• Set a meeting date of June 29 at 4:00 PM for a meeting of the City Council with the City Zoning Board to discuss the location of “modular homes” in the City, based on the ordinances and making more spaces available for mobile homes.

• Ended the City’s mandatory mask mandate for the prevention of the coronavirus but left the decision of wearing masks up to the individual’s discretion.

• Approved rental agreements for Brielle’s Boutique and HUGS A LOT Daycare for spaces at the Robert H. Young Community Center (old Carver Middle School); also approved business licenses for Christ Temple Church for a coffee shop, furniture store and theater; also, a business license for Paula Calligan’s Adjusted Crowns Hair Salon at 322 Brown Avenue.

• Agreed to change signatures on the Citizens Trust Bank bank accounts; and pay bills for the month of June. Mayor Johnson complimented the Chief of Police, Tommy Johnson, on the Police and First Responders Parade held in Eutaw last Thursday, June 17th. Chief Johnson announced that he will be holding a Coffee and Donuts Public Meeting on the second Thursday of each month at City Hall, beginning on July 8, 2021 at 10:00 AM. The public meeting will be a chance for people to raise comments, complaints and suggestions with the Chief of Police and his staff.

Eutaw City Council continues to improve water system management; extends mask requirements for another 30 days

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on May 25, 2021. Mayor Latasha Johnson, all Council members and the City Clerk and Assistant Clerk were present. After approval of the past minutes, the Council approved extending its mask mandate for 30 more days until the Council last meeting, on the fourth Tuesday in June. This mask mandate is an additional protection for people who have not been vaccinated yet for the coronavirus. The CDC has recommended that people who have been vaccinated do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings and only need to wear a mask indoors when there are large crowds, like at a sports stadium. Persons who have not been vaccinated are urge to continue wearing masks in all settings until they are vaccinated. The Council approved a spending limit for the mayor to sign checks up to $5,000 between meetings for emergency purposes. The Council also authorized a credit card for her to use to make necessary purchases. The $5.000 emergency spending limit applies to both checks and credit card purchases, added together for use to handle emergency needs between meetings. The Council heard a report from Corey Martin, Certified Water Operator that he was continuing to make improvements in the city water system. 90 accounts of persons owing more than $500 were disconnected for non- payment. Martin says about half of these persons started paying and had water services restored. In April there were 661 accounts owing $223,602 and by the May 25 meeting there were only 233 accounts owing $97,088. Over one hundred accounts were closed due to vacancies (people moving away), final bills and inactive accounts. In the six-month period from October 1 through May 25, the City Water Department took in $772,853 from current and past due water customers. This compares with total revenue from water of $585,592 for the entire past fiscal year. Mayor Johnson announced that Corey Martin had passed the state examination to be a certified sewer operator to add to his water credentials.The Council heard a report from Ralph Liverman, financial consultant that would rename prior bank accounts for new purposes and open new accounts as needed for city business. He recommended that all payments for water, sewer and garbage be deposited in a Utility Collection Account. Then the water funds be placed in a Water Account, sewer funds in a sewer account and garbage funds in the General Funds Account. Liverman also suggested a new Water Tank Maintenance account for accumulating funds for water tank repairs and repainting since the City discontinued its contract with the Suez Construction Company for tank maintenance. Councilwomen Valerie Watkins moved to table these banking account changes until a working session at which the requested changes could be thoroughly explained so all the council members would understand the changes. This motion to table was approved. In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved window tinting, stripping, radios and radar equipment for new police cars purchased by the city for the Police Department.

• Approved placing the names of the Mayor and Police Chief on record for a Safety Deposit Box for the City in Merchants and Farmers Bank, to hold certain valuable items for the city in the course of official business.

• Approved transfer of funds from the Eutaw Airport Grant Account to the Eutaw Airport Authority, so they can be used in the enhancement and re-opening of the airport for commercial use.

• Approved use of the Robert H. Young Civic Center (old Carver School) for a Walgreen’s and 100 Black Women of Tuscaloosa sponsored COVID-19 vaccination drive on June 7 and 17, 2021. • Approved the use of Merchants and Farmers Bank for check drafting. •

Approved participation in a summer training conference for the Chief of Police. The Council had a discussion about payment of bills and then approved payment of all bills recommended for payment by the Mayor and City Clerks. The mayor said that she had scheduled a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to discuss and negotiate the funds owed for back taxes, interest and penalties to satisfy a lien placed against the City by IRS. “ I am determined to pay off this IRS lien and I will use the Special Branch Heights Road Fund monies, generated from bingo, since we have repaired the roads in Branch Heights with other funds and we need to pay off this lien,” said Mayor Johnson.

Eutaw City Council approves Water Operations and Policy Manual; First Responders Parade for June 17

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on May 11, following a detailed work session on May 7 and adopted a City Utility Operations Policy and Procedure Manual. Corey Martin, City of Eutaw Certified Water Operator presented the Council with the fifty-page manual spelling out in detail the policies and operations of the water, sewer and garbage collection systems for the City of Eutaw. Martin explained that the manual was a living document explaining how the city utility departments would operate, deal with the public and report to state and Federal regulatory authorities. Martin asked the City Council to approve May 17 as the “cut off date” to begin shutting off water to customers that have not paid on outstanding water bills. At its December meeting, the Eutaw City Council approved a five-month period for people to settle outstanding unpaid water bills. The Mayor and Water Department were allowed to negotiate with customers to reduce past balances down by as much as 80%, to 20% of past due balance, provided that the customer worked out a payment arrangement on the reduced past-due balance and kept new monthly payments current. Martin said the City agreed to these payment agreements in good faith and as a way to clear up past indebtedness and get the system’s billing up to date. Some people came in and signed agreements to pay outstanding water bills, which included charges for sewer and garbage collection. Other customers did not. Some customers who signed agreements and got their past due balances reduced did not pay on their agreements. Martin asked the City to approve May 17 as the date to begin cutting off water to those who did not make agreements to pay back balances or did not honor their agreements. “We have sent people notification letters of their overdue balances and told them that a cut off day is coming if they do not pay. We will start on May 17, to shut off water to those with the highest outstanding balances,” said Martin. The City Council approved the utility shut off payment deadline of May 17, 2021. Eutaw Chief of Police, Tommy Johnson asked the City Council to endorse and support a First Responders Parade in Eutaw on Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM. Chief Johnson has invited first responders from neighboring communities including: Livingston, York, Greensboro, Moundville, Aliceville, Pickensville, Demopolis, Linden, Tuscaloosa and others to join Eutaw and Greene County first responders on that day as a tribute to their work during the pandemic and year-round. Johnson said, “ I want to show the residents that we are not just interested in putting people in jail but to contribute to the community and celebrate our neighboring first responders.” In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved on-line payments for City Clerk, Municipal Court and Police Department; in addition to the Water Department which previously had been approved for and is receiving on-line payments.

• Approved the 2021 CCR – Water Department Report for submission to ADEM.

• Approved cancellation of contract with SUEZ/Utility Service for servicing and painting the city’s water wells and water towers. This contract for over $5,000 a month will be replaced by a monthly contribution to a reserve fund for well service and maintenance expenses.

• Approved a resolution re-naming bank accounts for the repayment of the USDA Rural Development Loan for the water system.

• Approved a resolution to name new City Clerk, ShaKelvia Spencer to all city bank accounts and the removal of former Clerk, Kathy Bir, from those accounts.

• Approval of a resolution naming Chief Tommy Johnson as a signatory on the DARE’s bank account.

• Approved a plan by the T. S. Police League to employ young people for the summer to assist the city; and allow the T. S. Police League to use the Carver School gymnasium to screen and train youth for the summer program.

• Received a report from Mayor Latasha Johnson on her work with the County Commission and Industrial Development Authority for a feasibility study for a new hotel to be built, near the Love’s Truckstop at Exit 40 on the Interstate. The GCIDA is contracting for the study, which will cost approximately $10,000, with the expense to be split by the three involved entities. The feasibility study is needed to attract investors and a hospitality company to build a new facility in Greene County.

• Received a report from City Engineer Babbs on the GIS mapping project for underground utilities and his work to review and revise the ordinance for building codes and building permits, which will be submitted to the Council for future approval. •Agreed to pay bills as submitted by the Mayor.

Eutaw City Council approves budget but tables most other items until IRS lien can be resolved

The Eutaw City Council met twice in March on the ninth and twenty-third to consider a similar agenda. The Council approved the latest version of a budget, prepared by Financial Consultant, Ralph Liverman, paid essential bills but did not approve other new purchases and initiatives pending a resolution of an outstanding problem with IRS. The Council approved the fifth version of a budget submitted by its special financial adviser, Ralph Liverman. The budget, which includes $3.5 million in projected revenues and $3.2 million in projected expenses was prepared using the best data available from past and current operations. The budget is divided into seven funds based on revenue streams. The budget includes: General Fund Administration, General Fund Police, General Fund Street and Sanitation, General Fund Debt Service, Water and Sewer Fund, 7-Cent Gas Tax Fund, 4-Cent Gas Tax Fund, Special Street Fund, and Capital Improvements Fund. “We have an approved budget for the city, which is a plan that can be amended and changed as we learn more about our finances and critical needs. We also have an accountant doing an audit for us for the past three years – 2018, 2019 and 2020, which helps us to know where we stand and allows us to apply for new grants,” said Mayor Latasha Johnson. The Council requested an update on the situation with IRS from Kathy Bir, the City Clerk. Ms. Bir did not have a report at first but went to get copies of correspondence from her office. She said that she had been overwhelmed with other work priorities like payroll and also had been sick. Mayor Johnson said, “We have been very lenient on this but we have been asking for this information on IRS for five months.”The problem with IRS has two parts. IRS filed a lien against the City for unpaid Employee taxes during the past administration of Mayor Raymond Steele. There also is a second problem with a report filed by Ms. Bir, which was incorrect because the wrong figures were placed on the wrong lines of a quarterly earnings report filed with IRS. This report and problem have been corrected by Ms. Bir but no confirmation of the correction has been received from IRS by the City. The City owes IRS for these problems that are accumulating interest and penalties as long as they are unresolved. The Council expressed concern that they cannot move forward with other new purchases, such as needed police cars and a GIS mapping of city utilities, until the issues with IRS are clarified and a payment plan developed for the outstanding amount owed to IRS. Mayor Johnson said, that with the help of Ralph Liverman, she had written a letter to IRS to get a clear statement of the amount owed and the reasons for the debt. “We have not received an answer to our letter yet, so we will need to keep following up because we need results and not excuses to resolve this problem,” said Mayor Johnson. The Council agreed to pay outstanding bills for routine business but tabled action on most new expenses. In the March 9th meeting, the Council approved payment of $8,950 to Layne Christensen Company and $24,000 for payment to Sheppard Services LLC for repairs and replacement of well pumps for the water system. In response to requests from City Engineer Babbs, the Council approved joining the 811 Alabama Location Center, to get advanced notice of new construction affecting underground utility lines. The cost of this membership is $520 per year. The Council tabled Babbs request for a GIS Mapping System ($40,000) of the streets and utility lines needed for future grant requests for maintenance and repair, until the IRS claims can be resolved. The Council also tabled requests for new police vehicles, a SCADA and Telemetry system for the City water system, purchase of tractors and street improvement equipment and approval of the Utility Operations Policy and Procedures Manual until the IRS issues are resolved. The Council did approve $5,000 for upgrading the computers, networking and telephone system at City Hall, which will provide answering services and other improvements to the system. It approved arrangements for on-line payment of utility bills using debit, credit cards and other forms of non-cash payment. The Council approved entering into an agreement with Community Services of West Alabama for the payment of utility bills to help low-income residents. The Council also approved a contract with Jordan Vending Services for the placement of vending machines for water and Gatorade at the Robert H. Young Community Center (old Carver Elementary School). They also approved a timeclock for employees that will be coordinated with the ADT payroll service to provide more accurate records of hours worked by the city’s staff. The Mayor asked Terry Tyson to report on his audit of the city water meters. Terry has visited 753 water meters, about half of the meters. He has found problems with meters installed incorrectly, meter id numbers not correctly matched to the billing system, and some meters not included in the billing system. He plans to visit all of the meters and correct the problems as part of his agreement with the City. The Mayor and City Council noted that storm shelters are needed for Branch Heights, National Guard Armory and Carver School and Community Center. The Mayor said that she was working out the details on locating and constructing these shelters.

Eutaw City Council appoints boards, reviews water system and handles contracts

Greene County EMS staff demonstrate the Life-Pak/Defibrillator equipment to save lives, purchased by the City of Eutaw with CARES funds

The Eutaw City Council held its regular meeting on February 9, 2021. Mayor LaTasha Johnson and all Council members were present.
The Council reviewed technical assistance proposals from Water Management Services and EOS. The Council by a vote of 3 to 2 accepted the proposal from Terry Tyson, who works with EOS, to audit, review and repair the water meters. He will also help to make sure that the digital meters are communicating properly with the city’s billing computer software to help resolve some of the billing problems.
The Council also approved the Mayor’s recommendation to employ Corey Martin as the on-site water operator for the city, which will help to get the system functioning more efficiently.
The Council also approved March 3 as the final date for residents to negotiate a billing arrangement on paying their past due water bills before action is taken to cut off water. Residents can get an adjustment in their bills, down to 20% of the balance owed, to be paid over five months along with current billThe Council appointed the following members to the City Industrial Board: Mollie Rowe, Tommy Lee Armour, Theresa Carpenter, James Dee Powell, Hattie Edwards, Chris Beeker, Anita Lewis, Ralph Liverman, and Danny Cooper. The Council also appointed the Airport Board consisting of Joe Lee Powell, Danny Cooper, John Darden, Colin McRaye, James Carter, Reginald Cheatem and Billy Mingles.
The Council discussed rental fees for rooms at the Robert Young Community Center (old Carver Elementary School) and decided to charge $375 per room, per month, starting March 1st.
The Council made no differentiation between business and non-profit users, which may come back up for discussion.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:
• Approved contract with Waste Management Services for collection of garbage.
• Approved purchase for $12,000 of a new radio communications system for the Police Department, from Collins Communications.
• Agreed to purchase three new rotators for the city’s sewage lagoons; one large one for the City lagoon and two smaller ones for the lagoons at the rest areas on the two sides of Interstate 20/59. The cost of the rotators was $12,000 for the larger one and $6,000 each for the smaller ones.
• Heard a report from Mr. Babb, City Engineer on steps to get maps of the city water and sewage system to develop a maintenance and repair plan.
• Discussed getting speed bumps for Roebuck Street.
• Urged Parks and Recreation Committee to meet to make recommendations for improvements.
• Referred insurance claims to the company for review and payment.
• Viewed a demonstration of the Life-Pak equipment purchased by the City for the Greene County EMS with CARES funds.

Eutaw City Council appoints zoning board, discusses ways to enforce ‘mask mandate’ for greater safety of Eutaw residents

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on January 12, 2021 at City Hall since there was no heat in the Carver gymnasium, where the Council had been meeting to assure greater social distance between the Council and city residents attending the meetings. The Council members were separated by plastic partitions and about twenty people were allowed to sit six feet apart in the Council chamber.
Mayor Latasha Johnson distributed a list of standing committees and boards to the Council and asked them to help in naming people to these boards and committees. Johnson indicated that the terms of current members had ended and in some cases there were vacancies because the past appointees had died, moved away or were unable to serve for health reasons.
Johnson said it was critical to name the Zoning Board since several businesses had requested re-zoning or zoning variances over the past six months and these requests had not been acted upon because the Zoning Board had not been able to meet. The Council named the following persons to the Zoning Board: John Zippert, Shirley Ann Edwards, Shermaine Stewart, Cynthia Cooper and Corey Cockrell and urged them to meet soon to act on the outstanding issues.
The Council also discussed safety for City Hall in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilwoman Tracey Hunter raised the question of how well the City is enforcing the ‘mask mandate’ for local retail businesses.
“Some are enforcing the mask requirement and some are not,” she said. She recommended that the police visit the businesses in town and urge them to make sure people are wearing masks in businesses.
Mayor Johnson said,” We have a mask mandate and fines for not wearing masks in public and maintaining safe social distance. So, we will ask our police department to visit with businesses and ask them to enforce mask wearing to help protect all of our citizens.”
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:
• Approved a liquor license for Sleepy’s Bar and Grill in West End.
• Heard a report from Mayor Johnson that an audit of the city’s finances for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020, are still in progress by Rick Harmon, CPA of Tuscaloosa.
• Heard a report from Ralph Liverman, financial consultant, who is preparing a budget for the City’s current fiscal year. He said that he had a preliminary budget with six separate funds: General Fund, 3 Cent Gas Tax, 7 Cent Gas Tax, Streets, Water and Sewer and Capital Improvements, that he was working to refine. Liverman indicated that the City’s finances were in better shape than he expected. He said the City had three major debts, for purchase of Carver School, an IRS lien for past unpaid employee taxes and a loan for the City’s matching finds for expanding the sewer line to serve the Love’s Truckstop, which need to be repaired.
• Heard a report from City Engineer Babb on revising the building permit regulations. He said these updated regulations will be available by March.
• Heard a report from the Mayor that the City is inventorying all water meters to make sure they are all working properly and can interact with the city’s billing computer software to insure accurate billing. The Mayor also announced a Council work session on January 19, to meet with Kathie Horne on her agreement to serve the City in correcting and improving the water system.
• Heard a report from the Mayor on her efforts to work with the County Commission and Industrial Development Authority on steps to improve the Exit 40 area on Highway 20/59 including better lighting and attracting other retail business and motels to the intersection. The three entities have pledged to work together on this and other common issues.
• Discussed leasing of offices and space at the Carver School. The CRFD bingo operation and Liberty Tax, a business, have requested space in the school, which now serves as a community center. The Council needs to set a common policy on the leasing of space in the center to help with maintenance and improvement of the space.
In the Council and public comments section of the meeting. Several Council members requested more information on the budget and the committees and boards that they need to appoint. The Mayor said the coming work session on January 19 would help provide more information to Council members.

Eutaw City Council makes progress in handling city’s business

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on December 22, 2020, after cancelling its November 24 and December 8 meetings due to coronavirus affecting city employees. The full membership of the Council was present for a 2.5 hour meeting to handle city business.

Mayor Latasha Johnson reported on efforts to correct problems in the Water Department, which have plagued the City for the past two years. “We have sent out 1,398 water bills for the month of December, which covers all customers. With the help of the Alabama Rural Water Association, we have been reviewing problems with water meters and correcting problems,” said the Mayor.

“We have also worked with the digital meter softwear company to correct billing problems so we can send customers an accurate bill. The past administration said this company would not come to service the computer system for water bills but we called them and they came immediately to help correct problems. We still have the problem of adjusting the extreme bills that some customers received in the past year,” said Johnson.
The City Council discussed dealing with the extreme bills, where some customers received $400 to $600 a month water bills and fell behind in payments. “We want people to take responsibility for paying some part of these bills, because they received water, sewer and garbage services included on bills, make a payment plan and continue paying current bills,” said the Mayor.
Councilwoman Tracey Hunter, who received and paid past extreme bills, made a motion, that customers with extreme bills and large balances, be able to make an adjustment to pay off down to 20% of their balance, over 150 days, provided they also pay their current bill. This motion was passed by the Council and provides a way to systematically and fairly deal with past due bills. “This gives us a process to negotiate with residents to pay back bills. We will lose some money but we will be able to resolve these problems and go forward in a positive way,” said Mayor Johnson.
The Council also passed a motion to allow the Mayor to cancel the contract with Kathie Horne of Water Management Associates, since she has not been able to come to Eutaw to implement the agreement. The City has received help to correct the problem in its water system and billing from other sources.
The Council approved renewal of its contract with Waste Management for garbage collection with some adjustments. The representative of WM present at the meeting said he would provide replacement cans and additional cans for those who needed them. He asked that people place additional garbage, that did not fit in the cans, in bags and place on top of cans. He said the company was moving toward automation, where cans would be picked up and dumped into its trucks automatically. This will mean that garbage placed at the side of cans will not be easily picked up. The Council urged him to pick up all the garbage placed alongside the cans until automation of collection occurs.
The Council renewed its agreement with AVENU to collect sales tax, gas tax and business license fees for the City. The company collects these taxes and license fees for a small administrative fee but insures the collection of outstanding revenues.
The Council agreed to retain Babbs Engineering as its city engineer and building inspector. Babbs, who is a civil engineer, worked for the city in prior administrations but was not involved in the past four years. Babbs helped the City to seek and implement various state and federal grants for infrastructure improvements in the past and feels he will be able to help again in expanding resources.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

• Approved purchase of a new water flow meter for well #4 for $5,695, from Instrument Calibration Services.

• Approved purchase of a John Deere Compact Excavator for $44,200 which can serve as a back-hoe, tree trimmer and street maintenance machine. Gas tax funds were used for this purpose.

• Tabled a request to purchase a Jim House for the city lagoon for $12,373, pending a review by the city engineer of the need for this equipment.

• Approved a permanent change in the time of Eutaw City Council regular meetings from 6:00 PM to 5:00 PM on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

• Approved travel for the Chief of Police and Court Clerk for training.

• Tabled a liquor license request from Sleepy’s Bar and Grill, pending receipt of more information.

• Tabled a request for licensing a day care center in a Branch Heights residence by Valerie Nixon, pending review of zoning and residential codes in the area.

• Approved payment of claims against the city by Buenia Fluker Clark and Edward Hutton.

Mayor Johnson reported that she settled a large past due phone bill from the prior administration to be able to continue necessary and vital phone and wifi services for City Hall, Police Department and the water system. She also reported that she has renewed negotiations for lighting at the Interstate 20/59 Exit 40, near the Love’s Truck Stop with the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Ralph Liverman, financial consultant for the City of Eutaw gave a report on a dozen bank accounts maintained by the city for various purposes, mainly related to grants, and the receipts and expenditures in those accounts for the past two years. He reported no exceptional expenditures and showed funds available from the gas tax accounts and bingo proceeds for additional infrastructure and equipment needs of the city. He is still reviewing the city’s finances for purposes of developing a general fund and capital improvement budgets.