Breaking News: Latasha Johnson charged by Grand Jury with using her position as a Eutaw City Council member for personal gain; her attorney says she is innocent

Latasha Johnson

The Circuit Court Grand Jury for Greene County issued charges against Mayor elect, Latasha Johnson, for a September 30, 2019 incident. The charges were signed by Gregory S. Griggers District Attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit.

She is charged with using her position as a Eutaw City Council member, “To obtain personal gain for herself, to wit: instructed Tyler Sellers not to tow her automobile, after identifying herself as a Eutaw City Councilwoman and informing Tyler Sellers that if he towed her vehicle that it would cause problems for him with the Eutaw City Council, which resulted in a personal gain for the said Latasha Johnson in the amount of $100, in violation of Section 36-25-5(a) and Section 36-25-27(a)(1) of the Code of Alabama, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.”

Count II of the indictment accuses Johnson of “making a false statement” to Brian Barker, an investigator with the Alabama Ethics
Commission, on or about May 26, 2020, concerning her knowledge of Tyler Sellers and his family, which allowed Johnson to take possession of her vehicle, rather than allow Sellers to tow it.

Latasha Johnson was arrested on October 27, 2020 and brought to the Greene County Jail. She was released on a $10,000 bond the same day.

Attorney Hank Sanders of Selma, who represents Johnson said, “My client is innocent.  She will have her day in court and will be able to prove her innocence.  She will continue to go about her work duties and her mayoral duties.  This has come as a complete surprise just days after her election as Mayor of Eutaw and before she could take office.”

Latasha Johnson was elected Mayor of Eutaw in the Runoff Municipal Elections of October 6, 2020 by a vote of 718 (57.7%) to 526 (42.3%) for incumbent Mayor Raymond Steele. She and the newly elected City Council members plan to take office in a ceremony scheduled for Noon on Monday, November 2, 2020 at the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square.

Eutaw City Council certifies municipal elections; approves $70,000 + in CARES funds for EMS equipment

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, at 12 noon, the Eutaw City Council met to certify the municipal run-off election held Tuesday, October 6, 2020. Mrs. Mattie Atkins, Eutaw Municipal Election Official, presented the Resolutions and Certificates of Election attesting to the process that confirmed the final number of votes for each candidate, declaring the respective winners for mayor and council members. The current council members and mayor signed all Resolutions and Certificates.
Mrs. Atkins acknowledge the assistance of Mrs. Johnnie Knott and Eutaw staff who provided invaluable assistance. Mayor Raymond Steele also offered special appreciation to Mrs. Atkins and Mrs. Knott for their service.
The Eutaw City Officials will be sworn in prior to their first official meeting in November.
The council approved a budget of $2,000 for the inauguration ceremonies.
The Eutaw City Council met in its regular 2nd Tuesday monthly meeting, following the certification. Mayor Raymond Steele did not remain for the City Council meeting. Mayor Pro Tem LaJeffery Carpenter presided.
The council approved approximately $ 68,000 in CARES funds to purchase two Life Pak 15 Defibrillators with consideration of purchasing a multiple year service contract for the equipment at $2,000 per year. The federal CARES money must be spent by December 31, 2020. Eutaw EMS Director Nick Wilson reported that the Eutaw Ambulance Service now has six Federally Registered Para Medics – three full time and three part time.
Councilman Joe Powell asked the council to consider the bid for constructing a storm shelter in Branch Heights. The only bid submitted was for $95, 495 for a shelter with a 96 capacity. The item was tabled. The council commented that the bid process for the shelter could re-open.
The council approved a request from Katie and James Powell for a daycare center in Branch Heights, with the necessary documentation from the Fire Marshall.
The council announced that Eutaw Police Chief, Derick Coleman submitted his letter of retirement effective October 30, 2020. Two additional Eutaw police officers have resigned: Assistant Police Chief Rodriquez Jones effective October 15 and Officer Christopher Gregory effective October 6. Councilman Carpenter stated that Sheriff Jonathan Benison has agreed to assist until the Eutaw Police Force is rebuilt.
The council agreed that inventory lists of city equipment from all supervisors must to be submitted by 4:00 pm Tuesday, October 20.
The council agreed to secure quotes for improvements to the park behind city hall.
On the recommendation of the city attorney the council approved payment of the John Darden claim. The attorney reported that the John and Jane McGee claim has been turned over to the insurance company.

Special Posting – Breaking News: Eutaw Water System users file lawsuit to force Mayor Steele to allow management consultants and auditors to correct problems

Eutaw, AL, October 4, 2020: Eleven residents of the City of Eutaw, including City Councilwoman, Sheila Smith, filed a lawsuit today against Mayor Raymond Steele, to compel him to allow an audit and a water management consulting firm to go to work to resolve the problems of the City of Eutaw Water Department.

The Civil lawsuit, titled SHEILA SMITH ET AL V. RAYMOND STEELE 35-CV-2020-900052.00 was electronically filed this morning in the Greene County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

The lawsuit is in response to Mayor Steele’s actions blocking CPA Donald Woods of Tuscaloosa from auditing the Eutaw Water Department and Water Management Associates, a Montgomery based water management consulting firm, from gaining access to the Eutaw Water Department to begin a process of correcting the problems of this crucial city department.

The Eutaw City Council approved by a 5-0 vote, the contract for Water Management Associates (WMA) to begin working on September 1, 2020. Mayor Steele refused to sign the contract, saying the Council did not have authority to make the contract. The Council then voted by a 4-0 vote, to authorize Mayor Pro Temp LaJeffrey Carpenter to sign the contract with WMA.

Mayor Steele refused Kathy Horne and two technical associates from WMA access to the Eutaw Water Department, on September 1, 2020, and threatened them with arrest for trespassing. The WMA staff was unwilling to risk arrest to implement their contract to improve the water system.

The lawsuit also calls for the Mayor and the City to implement a policy of not accepting cash for water bills that the Eutaw City Council enacted in February 2020 but which the Mayor decided to ignore and never implement.

Councilwoman Smith said, “We filed this lawsuit to compel Mayor Steele to carry out the wishes of the Eutaw City Council to straighten out the City Water Department from top-to-bottom. We

wanted to file before Tuesday’s Runoff Election so the Mayor and the voters of Eutaw would know we want to see these problems resolved now.”

         A copy of the lawsuit as filed, follows for you to read.

Eutaw City Council approves contract with Water Management Services to correct problems with city’s water system

After months of debate and disagreement, the Eutaw City Council approved an agreement with Water Management Services to correct problems in the city’s water system in a 5-1 vote. All of the Council members voted in favor, while Mayor Raymond Steele is opposed and says he will not honor this contract.
In a special called meeting on Tuesday, August 4th at the Carver School gym, the Council voted to accept the agreement and a temporary ordinance to allow Mayor-ProTemp, LaJeffrey Carpenter, to sign the agreement since Mayor Steele has indicated his opposition and unwillingness to sign. The Eutaw City Council had previously removed the Mayor as Superintendent of the water system.
Council members Sheila Smith, Latasha Johnson and Joe Lee Powell have been pushing for this agreement with a consulting firm headed by Kathy Horne, former Executive Director of the Alabama Rural Water System. “ The problems with the water system have not been resolved for over three years, some water meters do not work properly, billing has been incorrect for many months and revenues have fallen short, so we can’t give city employees raises they deserve,” said Latasha Johnson.
Mayor Raymond Steele said, “Some Council members, who are running for office, are using the water system as a political football. Most of the problems have been resolved.” Council members Smith and Powell say the Mayor has never given a written financial report on the revenues of the water system during this term, which is part of the reason they removed him from his position with the water system, to clear the way for the management agreement.
The three year agreement with Water Management Services, a consultant company affiliated with the non-profit Alabama Rural Water System, will deal with the infrastructure, technical and financial problems of the city’s water system. The agreement also calls for the employment of a three person staff to help manage and correct problems with the physical system and the financial billing process. Water Management Services will also receive a $6.00 a month fee for each water system customer for its assistance.
The agreement is scheduled to begin by September 1, 2020 and show results over time in the condition and finances of the city water system. The proposal submitted by Water Management Services includes some examples of the prior work with rural water systems in Lowndes and Wilcox Counties as well as the City of Georgiana.
In other business, during its meetings on July 16, July 28 and August 4, the Eutaw City Council:
• Tabled an ordinance to prohibit electronic bingo, within the city limits, to secure more information on a potential proposed bingo establishment across from the Love’s Truck Stop.
• Approved the advertisement for bids for resurfacing of the M & M Drive.
• Agreed to bid out the cutting off hay at the City Park and other locations.
• Agreed to take bids for two storm shelters, one in Branch Heights and another located on Boligee Street.
• Agreed to seek bids for the air conditioning of the Carver Community Center gym.
• Agreed to give $1,200 in hazardous pay to city police force, from CARES funds received by the City; and toga all other employees the same hazardous pay bonus from CARES funds, if possible, otherwise from other revenues.
•Worked out an arrangement for Mattie Atkins, City Election Manager to use
the Council meeting room, as a temporary office and to secure additional help and poll officials as needed for the August 25th municipal election.
• Discussed FEMA agreement to fund the repair of washed-out streets and the need to involve more than one contractor and complete all of the work before additional rains make conditions worse.
• Agreed to pay bills for the city.
Heard a complaint from Akheem Blake at 310 Roebuck Avenue that his water meter does not work and that sewage was backing up into the bathroom in his house.

Supt. Jones gives update on students academic arrangement School system proposes 2020 high school graduation in July with precautions

Shown L to R: GCHS Counselor Tameka Thompson, GCHS senior Jasmine Bevelle and Superintendent Corey Jones display 2020 seniors yard signs.

The Greene County Board of Education held its regular meeting Monday, May 18, 2020, observing the required COVID-19 physical arrangements with limited participants wearing masks and seated 6ft. apart. The board’s quorum consisted of C. Zippert, L. Branch and W. Morgan.
In a key announcement, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones stated that the school system is tentatively planning to hold Greene County High School graduation on Friday, July 24 utilizing the stadium and football field at Robert Brown Middle School. He stated that his executive committee is planning the arrangements where graduates will be spaced appropriately from each other and each student will be allowed only four guests who will also be distanced according to guidelines. Other specific logistics will be announced at a later date.
Superintendent Jones noted that GCHS graduates received their caps and gowns and personalized yard signs Monday afternoon in a drive-through at the high school prior to the board meeting, with numerous faculty, staff and board president available to present the attire and congratulatory gestures. (See photo display on page 8)
In a COVID-19 academic arrangement update, Jones reported on each school regarding teachers’ contacts with students and students’ compliance in submitting completed assignments.
Eutaw Primary reported 100% teacher contact with students and 80% packets returned by students. Robert Brown Middle School reported 93% teacher contact and 85% packets return. Greene County High reported 95% teacher contact and 95 % packets return. The Career Center reported 100% teachers contact and 80% packets return.Regarding additional technology for students’ virtual learning, Superintendent Jones announced that the school system was awarded a $30,000 grant from Alabama Power Foundation toward the $167,000 cost of 600 Chrome Books and hot spots for students, which are on order. He added that the school system is exploring various internet carriers to service our outlying areas, including AT& T and Verizon. “These technological improvements will allow us to extend learning time and provide optional arrangements for the teaching-learning process” he stated.
Jones indicated that because of the COVID-19 uncertainties, his executive staff is investigating a possible blended schedule for the next school term, where various grades could attend on-site classes in shifts and participate in classes virtually off-site.
The school system has ended its regular meals program having provided 66,540 meals to families with children 1-18 years of age, however, families can continue to receive meals for students through the USDA Meals-To-You Program. Each family must sign-up for the program through the following website: Meals will be delivered to parents who sign up.
CSFO Lavonda Blair reported that the State Audit Exit Conference was held vitally last week with board members. There were no findings. A final on-site report will be scheduled at a later date. She also noted that the school system’s income is decreasing, as tax revenue decreases, however expenses are increasing.
According to Blair, the water bills at the various school sites have had considerable increases even though the facilities are closed. At GCHS there was a $2,000 plus increase in the water bill in a month’s period; At RBM there was a $700 plus increase water bill; and at Eutaw Primary there was a $300 plus increase. Superintendent Jones indicated he has attempted to reach Mayor Raymond Steele to investigate these increases and obtain an explanation. If the Mayor does not respond, Dr. Jones indicated he will approach the City Council.
The board has tentatively scheduled its required annual Superintendent and CSFO Evaluations for June 15 and June 8, respectively.
The board also discussed the AASB Whole Board Training for 2020, but no definite decision was determined since all board members were not present.
The superintendent noted that his office has taken appropriate actions to alleviate the Bat problem at RBMS.
The board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to hire Mr. James Gaines as Interim Transportation Supervisor for the school system.
In a traditional process, the board approved the superintendent’s recommendations to non-renew various non-tenured and contract personnel. Dr. Jones indicated that most will be called back.

Eutaw City Council votes to remove Mayor Steele as Superintendent of Water System

Central Alabama Asphalt and Construction of Tuscaloosa started resurfacing the roads in King Village April 13, 2020. A representative of Central Alabama Asphalt and & Construction, Eutaw City Councilman LaJeffery Carpenter, Anita Lewis, Housing Authority Director and Eutaw City Councilman Joe Powell were on hand to oversee operation

By: John Zippert,

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to remove Mayor Raymond Steele from his position as Superintendent of the City Water System.
This decision came after months of arguments between the Council and the Mayor over the status of the water system, the condition and accuracy of new digital water meters installed as part of the upgrading of the system, software problems with the computer interface between meters and billing and problems of some customers receiving no or minimum bills and others receiving very high bills.
The issue came to a head when members of the Council questioned Mayor Steele about some high water bills that he had adjusted and others that he did not change saying that the customer had a “leak” as the reason for a high water bill.
Mayor Steele asserted, “We are close to resolving all the issues with the water system, incorrect meters and billing. This is a matter of day to day operations of the city and the council should not be involved.”
Council member Latasha Johnson moved and LaJeffrey Carpenter seconded that “the Mayor be removed from his position as Superintendent of the City Water System and he no longer be paid $800 per month for this position.” The motion was approved by a 4-2 vote with Councilmembers Joe Lee Powell and Sheila Smith joining Johnson and Carpenter in the majority. Councilman Bennie Abrams and Mayor Steele voted against the motion.
Council member Joe Lee Powell said, “Our intention is to contract out the management of the City Water Department, so we can be sure that the system including meters, computer soft wear, billing and maintenance of the pipes are correct and giving accurate readings for billing purposes. We may need to have this request for management services put out for competitive bidding at our next meeting.”
Following this motion, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to no longer receive cash as payment for water bills, due to the coronavirus. Some of the members of the Council had been arguing for months that the City should suspend the collection of cash for water bills to insure a clear paper trail on revenues received by the water department.

At the beginning of the meeting, Councilman Joe Lee Powell asked permission to make a statement to the City Council as a citizen. In his statement, Powell raised some serious questions about the way the Mayor had been operating city business and urged him not to run for re-election as mayor in August.
The most serious charges in Powell’s statement were that the Mayor Steele was conducting city business in a “dictatorial manner” and misusing city automobiles and funds. Powell questioned a number of recent personnel decisions made by the Mayor. Powell also questioned an insurance claim filed against the City by the Mayor’s wife on flooding and mold in a building that she and the Mayor own on the Courthouse Square. The Mayor submitted this claim to the city’s insurance without the approval of the City Council.
The Democrat was unable to research and verify Powell’s charges for this article. We will continue to seek information and documentation before discussing these claims in detail.

In other actions, the City Council:

• approved on a 4-2 vote, the purchase and installation of surveillance cameras in Branch Heights, King Village and Carter Circle for crime deterrence;

• questioned why the property on Park Lane had not yet been sold

• questioned the Mayor and City Attorney on insurance claims filed against the City.

Former Greene County Commissioner Edna Chambers honored with special salute: It’s Your Time

Shown above Joe Chambers, Cathelean Steele, Edna Chambers and Dr. Charles Steele.

Mrs. Edna Chambers, the first African American female to serve on the Greene County Commission, was honored for her outstanding community work at a special program entitled, It’s Your Time, held June 15, 2019 at the Eutaw Activity Center. Mrs. Chambers is noted as a trailblazer, civil rights activists and humanitarian in Greene County and throughout the state of Alabama.
Chambers, representing District 1, served two terms on the Greene County Commission between 1998- 2004. Johnnie M. Knott, served at the Mistress of Ceremony. Mrs. Chambers was escorted by her son, Joe Chambers and grandson Ivory Chambers, Jr.
Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown delivered the history of her political career. Brown stated that due to a federal indictment at that time, he could not seek political office so he contacted Mrs. Chambers. He revealed that he asked her to run for the District 1 seat and before she could say anything he encouraged her to think about it and hung up the phone.
Brown further explained that not only did Mrs. Chambers win the position, she ran and won by a landslide. Her platform was honest government, dedicated service and commitment to try and lift falling humanity. Her interest in Greene County’s welfare goes beyond politics. Mrs. Chambers often stated, “I want to work for all the people without regard to race, color, sex or creed.”
Prior to running for office, Mrs. Chambers had just retired from the Greene County Health Department as a home health care employee. She and her husband for many years operated a small community grocery store. She was also a licensed agent with Primerica Insurance Company.
In her capacity as a community leader, Mrs. Chambers helped and assisted with the following: Camp Montgomery, Knoxville Volunteer Fire Department, Montgomery Recreation Center and the USDA Commodity Distribution. She is also an active member of the Greene County Chapter of Alabama New South Coalition.
Mrs. Chambers attends Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Knoxville. Her pastor, Rev. Robert Ellis, was on hand to provide words of encouragement and blessing of the food. She is the mother of two children Joe and Ivory. Ivory, her eldest child, died in 1997.
The theme for Edna Chamber’s Day, It’s Your Time, was echoed throughout the event with musical selections presented by the Greene County Mass Choir.
Mrs. Cathelean Steele introduced her husband, the guest speaker, stating that Mrs. Chambers played matchmaker for them. Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. President /CEO of National SCLC served as guest speaker. Steele stated that although he has traveled to many countries around the world, he will never forget that he is a product of Greene County.
Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele thanked Mrs. Chamber for being a trailblazer for not just for women but for all of us. A resolution was presented by the Greene County Sheriff Department.
Other program participants included: Scripture reading by Minister Johnnie Chambers Sankey; Prayer by Rev. Michael Billingsley; Welcome/Greeting by Mary Beck and Carolyn Beck; Occasion by Mary Harris and Lester Brown; Musical Tribute by Antonio Pearson and Samoria Beck.Various family members and friends shared stories of inspiration and appreciation in how Mrs. Chambers touched their lives. Many spoke of Mrs. Chambers as a quiet, seemingly low-keyed person, but when she spoke, everyone knew exactly what her position was and what actions she would take.
Mrs. Chambers thanked everyone for coming out and showing her love and she thanked the Lord for his many blessings.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council reach political logjam

News Analysis
By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Last night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting was convened by Mayor Raymond Steele at 6:00 PM. The City Council added an Executive Session to a very limited agenda.
After the ten minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened but could not pass a motion to come back into regular session. The meeting was adjourned after taking no actions at 6:20 PM.
I attend the City Council meetings on a regular basis. I attended the April 9 meeting and the City Council Work Session on April 16, 2019 but did not write a story on these meetings because there was so much division and discord between the Mayor and Council that I did not want to report. I had hopes that some of these issues would be resolved in a positive manner and some compromise actions would be taken at last night’s meeting.
I am sad to report as a resident of the City of Eutaw that the meeting ended without resolution of on-going issues and without moving forward on some critical issues and concerns.
There seems to be a lack of communication between Mayor Steele and most Councilmembers that could lead to some compromise and resolution of outstanding issues. I think it is fair to say the Mayor and Council are at loggerheads or in a political logjam that they must work to resolve.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson says, “The Mayor will not communicate with us, will not give us information about the city’s finances that we are supposed to have and expects us to go along with anything he does. If he consulted with us and discussed these things, I am sure we could come to some fair resolution and conclusions.”
Johnson and other council members have been asking for a current statement of income and expenses for the city, a budget listing how revenues will be expended, a detailed listing of bills that have been paid and are owed. “We basically have received none of these financial reports, so we do not know where we stand and how to make decisions going forward.” she said. Mayor Steele says, “ We know that the City does not have a large enough tax base to pay all bills. We pay the bills as best we can to keep the city operating. I have the responsibility to make day-to-day administrative decisions and I am trying my best to do that. The records and information that council members are requesting are available to them if they come to City Hall and request it from the City Clerk.”
In a March meeting, the Council passed a resolution to remove the Mayor as a check signatory on most city accounts, as a way to put controls on his ability to spend city funds without Council knowledge or approval. The Mayor says, “This is unfair. This prevents me from carrying out my day to day responsibilities and the Council has given no reason to remove me as a signatory.” The Mayor has not brought the official bank resolutions to the City Council, after being asked in several meetings, including the April 16 Work Session.
The Council has passed several other resolutions, including one to declare a shed vacant on the grounds of the former National Guard Armory to rent to a church non-profit for storage for its surplus furniture service; a resolution not to accept cash for payment at the City’s water department; and a resolution to revisit the cost of utilizing city facilities by community groups. The Mayor has not brought these items back for consideration and implementation by the City Council. They were not listed on last night’s agenda despite being requested at the April 16 Work Session, which was part of the reason the Councilmembers were so displeased with the Mayor.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith says, “ We have been requesting information on the revenues for the City Water Department for months. Some people are paying too much; others get minimum bills month after month. There is something wrong with the new water meters and the softwear used to read the meters and make out the bills. But the Mayor says everything is fine but does not give us the financial reports to show that revenues for the Water Department are below what is needed to operate the system and service our debts.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell says, “ I am concerned about the way the Mayor is running the City. This is not a dictatorship. The Mayor should be consulting with us on problems and providing the information we have requested. I am particularly disturbed that repairs have not been made to the sewage system in Branch Heights. It is a health hazard that sewage is backing up into people’s homes and is in their yards and ditches. People in Branch Heights pay their water and sewage bills and deserve that these problems be addressed by the City.”
Powell indicates that he asked the Mayor to put the Branch Heights sewage problems on the agenda, at the April 16 Work Session, but this item was not listed on last night’s agenda. Powell says he is concerned that he is being asked to support matching funds for a Streetscape project to improve and enhance the Courthouse Square while the Mayor ignores problems in other parts of the City.
The Council members are also upset and concerned that the Council minutes do not accurately reflect what happened at the meetings and contain commentary and notes that support the Mayor and disregard their inputs and motions.
To this observer, Mayor Steele and the Eutaw City Council are at an impasse. They must come together and put aside some of their differences, develop a financial report and budget to operate from a mutual understanding of the city’s current conditions and future prospects; communicate honestly, compromise strategically, seek help from sympathetic external supporters and work out their problems with each other, so the City of Eutaw can move forward in the interest of all of its residents.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council in disagreement on major issues

By: John Zippert,

At Tuesday night’s meeting on March 26, 2019, Mayor Raymond Steele and the Eutaw City Council remain divided over major issues.
In response to the written agenda passed out for the meeting, Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter asked to place two additional items on the agenda, including a request for an Executive Session on a personnel issue and a follow-up to the council’s resolution on check signing.
Mayor Steele was visibly distressed and said that council members should bring their agenda suggestions to him before the meeting so that they can be reviewed and the staff can prepare a response and provide information that is needed. The Council added these items to the agenda over the Mayor’s objections.
After a short eight minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened and asked the Mayor if he had implemented a resolution they passed at the January 22, 2019 meeting, which removed the Mayor as the signatory on most city bank accounts and made Councilmembers Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter along with City Clerk, Kathy Bir as the designated signatories on these accounts.
Mayor Steele said he had not implemented the change because he had not been given reasons for changing the signatories. “ I am in charge of the day to day business of the City, it is critical that the Mayor be able to sign checks. I do not have any problem with adding other signatories to the accounts. You will not tell me why you don’t want me to sign –
This is not right.”
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson asked City Attorney, Zane Willingham, to prepare written instructions for the City Council as to “what to do when the Mayor does not implement policies and actions decided and approved by the Council.” The Council in a resolution approved these instructions.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson also indicated that the Mayor had not implemented the policy, also adopted in the January 22, 2019 meeting, that cash would not be accepted to pay water bills and other obligations to the City. Johnson said,
“Cash is still being accepted, no signs have been posted as we requested. The Mayor has decided on his own not to implement this policy on taking cash approved by the City Council.”
Councilwoman Sheila Smith questioned the Mayor about problems with the water bills. “Too many residents are paying the minimum water bill of $38.58 for residences and $58.38 for businesses. The water meters or the water meter reading system is not working properly and we are loosing money we need to pay for the water system and operate the city.”
Mayor Steele said that all of the new meters have been checked and are working properly. He said that he would review this problem again and try to find a solution.

The Council was given a detailed report on bills to be paid for the month of March. Several Councilmembers objected that they we given the information about the bills late and did not have time to study the expenditures. Payment of the bills was tabled until the next meeting to give the Council members time to review.
LaJeffrey Carpenter asked Mayor Steele why he had only re-paved the roads in Branch Heights, while the roads in King Village, Carver Circle and other parts city also needed similar repairs. The mayor in exasperation answered, “ You know we agreed to the roads in Branch Heights as a special project. We do not have enough money at this time to do all of the roads or make all of the repairs that the Council is requesting.”

The Mayor indicated that he was trying to get some disaster relief funds allocated to the City of Eutaw for street repairs since the recent rains had eroded some of the streets.

Mayor Steele said he was still working on an audit which was necessary to secure funding for new police cars and construction equipment from USDA Rural Development.
“The equipment we have is worn out and more than ten years old. We have no new tax base and limited funds to pay for needed improvements to the City. When we start earning new taxes from the Love’s Truck Stop, then we may be able to afford the repairs and improvements needed by the City,” said Mayor Steele.
Councilmembers responded that this was why they were asking for a budget and audit so they could understand and project the City’s finances to pay current obligations and plan for future expenditures.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council approved a retail beer and wine license for Love’s truck Stop and publication for four week’s of the City’s request for Sunday alcohol sales, which will generate some additional revenues.

Mayor Steele reports to Eutaw City Council on recent positive progress

Shown L To R: Mayor Raymond Steele, Anita Lewis Executive Director of Branch Heights and Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison inspecting newly paved road.
Sgt. Jones displaying guns that were confiscated from juveniles in
an arrest on O’Neal Street.

After some routine matters, the January 8, 2019 first meeting of the new year was devoted to a report by Mayor Raymond Steele on positive progress by the city over the past weeks.
The Eutaw City Council agreed to table discussion of bills and finances until a working session scheduled for January 15, 2019. The area of finances, a budget, audits of prior year finances and a general handle on the revenues and expenses of the city remain a concern to a majority of the Council members.
Mayor Steele reported that work on resurfacing the streets in Branch Heights was underway. Central Asphalt Company of Northport was doing a good job. The major streets will be done first and then if funds are left in the contract, the individual cul de sacs in the community will also be resurfaced.
The Mayor indicated that some supplement might need to be added to the contract to complete the full road and street resurfacing project in Branch Heights. This work is being funded by a special allocation of bingo funds and the city’s road repair tax account.
Mayor Steele reported that site work for the Love’s Truck Stop project at the Interstate 59/20 exit would begin later in January. Some equipment has been pre-staged by the contractor for use in site preparations for the project.
The Mayor thanked Rev. Barton for his work with youth at the Robert H. Young Community Center (formerly Carver Elementary School) including a basketball tournament, exercise and weight room and improvements to the exterior and interior of the buildings.
Darren Cook of Unity in the Community, a non-profit organization, has assisted Rev. Barton with the youth program and sponsoring the holiday basketball tournament. Cook, who is a native of Tishabee community in Greene County, now resides in Huntsville raised funds through his non-profit to help with charitable projects in Greene County. Cook said his organization also provided bicycles for poor children through DHR and Christmas baskets to forty senior citizens in the community.
Cook’s organization recently provided 30 table coverings for the Robert H. Young Center. Council members thanked Cook and praised the city administration for moving ahead in a positive way. Rev. James Carter indicated that he had employed three young people, in his family construction business, who he met at the basketball tournament.
The Mayor announced that Auburn University was sponsoring a conference on economic development on April 4, 2019, in Eutaw, in conjunction with the city and surrounding communities.
Police Chief Coleman and Sgt. Jones displayed two automatic guns that they had confiscated from juveniles in an arrest the previous week on O’Neal Street. The weapons which were modified to fire continuous rounds automatically looked dangerous and raised many questions as to how and why young people in our city should be carrying weapons of war suitable to a third world battlefield and not the streets of small town Alabama.
In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

  • Approved use of the Eutaw Civic Center by the National Wild Turkey Federation, for their special annual event on February 22, 2019, including approval of a license to serve alcohol at the event; and
  • Approved travel for Chief Coleman to attend the Alabama Chief of Police Conference in Montgomery on February 17-21, 2019.