Groundbreaking held for Love’s Travel Center at Interstate 20/59 Exit 40 Eutaw

Officials participating in groundbreaking (L. to R.): Kenneth Boswell (ADECA), Rep. Ralph Howard. Senator Bobby Singleton, Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele, Governor Kay Ivey, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Jenny Love Meyer, Rep. A. J. McCampbell, Bill Gleason (Love’s), Eutaw Council members Joe Lee Powell, Sheila H. Smith, Bennie Abrams, LaJeffrey Carpenter, and Danny Cooper (GCIDA)

On Monday, October 15, 2018, a groundbreaking was held for a Love’s Travel Center and Country Store, near the location of the new business on the Southside of the Interstate 20/59 Exit 40 on Highway 14 coming into the City of Eutaw.The mid-morning groundbreaking was attended by Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Legislative delegation members, Senator Bobby Singleton, Rep. A. J. McCampbell and Rep. Ralph Howard, members of the Eutaw City Council, Greene County Commission and other state and local agencies involved as well as Jenny Love Meyer and William “Bill “ Gleason representing the Love’s corporation. The new $12.5 million travel stop will be built on a 13.9-acre site and is expected to bring an estimated 43 jobs to the area with a projected 1,000 trucks per day. The new Love’s will be one of the largest Love’s sites in Alabama and will include a Hardee’s, Godfather’s Pizza, and Chester’s Chicken. The Eutaw location will also consist of 96 parking spaces for professional drivers, with the possibility of future expansion for more parking spaces. Councilman Joe Lee Powell welcomed the over 250 people assembled for the groundbreaking ceremony by stating, “You are welcome in Eutaw the Gateway to the Alabama Black Belt.” Rev. John Hodges, Pastor of the Saint Mathew Baptist Church in Boligee gave the invocation. Congresswoman Terri Sewell thanked all the groups and agencies present for their contributions to make the project a success. “We thank Love’s for bringing jobs to the Alabama Black Belt where they are greatly needed. We can assure you that people are our greatest asset – their strength, their intellect and their heart, which will become part of this project.” State Senator Bobby Singleton said, “this is a great day for Eutaw and Greene County. This project is a gamechanger that will bring new jobs and open opportunities for other development and jobs.” State Representatives A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard, who represent Greene County, echoed these same sentiments. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said, “This is an exciting day for this county, when Greene County wins, Alabama wins.” She reviewed her success in bring 16,000 jobs to Alabama since she became Governor. “We are working to make groundbreakings like this an everyday occurrence in Alabama. We know that Love’s has 14 locations in Alabama, especially in rural locations like this one. We wish them success in providing drivers a quality and safe place to rest and refuel,” she said. Jenny Love Meyer speaking for the Love’s Company said, “This will be one of 470 locations around the nation that will bear our family name. We started in Oklahoma to build clean and friendly places for truckers and other travelers. We know this new location will live up to our company’s mission and vision.” William ‘Bill’ Gleason, Real Estate Property Manager for Love’s, who was instrumental in finding the location, said, “ Our travel centers have no wheels under them. Once we build, we are with you to stay!” Mayor Raymond Steele thanked everyone involved in the project, including ADECA, Delta Regional Authority, USDA Rural Development Greene County Industrial Development Authority and the West Alabama Regional Planning Agency who provided funds and direction to extended sewage and other utilities to the Exit 40 site. The Mayor also thanked the Eutaw City Council, the Greene County Commission, Jamie Banks family, who sold the land for the project and many others for making the project possible. “We hope that this is just the beginning for new jobs and growth in our community. With this project, we have a chance to move forward together and open other new opportunities for the people of our area,” said Mayor Steele, before a large group of the invited dignitaries put their golden shovels in the ground to turn over the dirt symbolizing the start of the project.

Charges dismissed against former Mayor Hattie Edwards Eutaw City Council debates National Guard Armory rental policies and local legislation to change appointments to Housing Authority

Hattie EdwardsFormer Mayor Hattie Edwards (center in purple skirt) surrounded by supporters at the end of hearing dismissing charges against her. L to R are supporters: Debbie Duncan, Spiver Gordon, Wade McFarland, Sheila H. Smith and Lorenzo French.

 

At a special session of the Eutaw City Court, Judge William “Nick” Underwood dismissed all charges against former Mayor Hattie Edwards of Eutaw. Edwards was charged with “interfering in the activities of the police” during the last municipal election. Edwards asserted that she was just doing her job as Mayor and supervisor of all city employees including the police.
Attorney Nathan Watkins Jr. of Livingston, who was serving as City Prosecutor, moved to dismiss the charges against Edwards. This was based on an agreement with Hank Sanders, attorney for Edwards, that the charges were not valid. City Judge Underwood then dismissed the charges against Edwards and also the charges that she had made against police officers for harassing her.

“ I am pleased that this is over and I was completely relieved of any charges for just doing my job as Mayor.” Said Edwards.

City Council report

At their regular meeting on April 25, 2017, the Eutaw City Council reviewed and agreed upon amended policies for use of the National Guard Armory and City Park for organizations and fundraising activities. There will be a $250 fee for use of the National Guard Armory for all organizations that are not non-profit, and do not have a valid IRS 501 c.3 tax exempt designation.
There will be a $125 fee for organizations with the proper designation and paperwork certifying that they are IRS 501 c.3. The IRS 501 c.3 letter must be attached to the organization’s rental agreement application to receive the reduced rental rate. No non-profit organization is allowed to use another organization’s IRS 501 c.3 designation letter to hold an event at reduced charge. Families using the facility for a funeral repast will not be charged a fee.
All functions must have bonded security or off duty police officers. The City Chief of Police will verify the legality of the security being provided. Teen dances will be allowed to go until 12:30 AM on Friday and Saturday nights, however, they must follow the same security procedures as other organizations.
Roebuck Landing personal were present at the meeting requesting use of the City Park on May 13, 2017 for a crawfish boil. City Councilperson LaTasha Johnson requested a $1,000 fee for use of the park, which was reduced to $500 by vote of the City Council. Tickets to the event will be sold at $20.
Council Joe Lee Powell said, “We are setting these policies so we can generate income to maintain and repair city properties, like the Armory, for comfortable use by our citizens for many years to come.”
The City Council approved publication of a ‘Bill to be Entitled to increase the number of Commissioners on the Eutaw Housing Authority and provide for their terms of office and vacancies.” This proposed local legislation is currently running in the Legal Notices section of the Greene County Democrat for the four weeks required. This bill will be presented to our legislators for passage in the current session of the Alabama Legislature.
The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Latasha Johnson would increase the number of Commissioners on the Eutaw Housing Authority from five to seven. Five members would be appointed, one by each Council member, and two at-large members appointed by the Mayor. Currently the Mayor appoints all five Commissioners, subject to approval by the City Council.
Mayor Raymond Steele opposed this proposal saying it would challenge and restrict his legal power to appoint members of the Eutaw Housing Authority. The Council at the meeting on April 11, 2017 supported the proposal 4 to 2. Mayor Steele refused to sign the certificate of publication of this local bill in the newspapers. The City Council authorized Mayor Pro Tem, Sheila H. Smith, to sign the certification to allow the newspapers to publish the proposal.
This action comes in the midst of a dispute between the Mayor and the City Council about appointments in the Eutaw Housing Authority and an effort to merge the City and Greene County Housing Authorities.

Eutaw City Council approves construction financing for water project; modifies pay for some city employees; plans to update all water bills by January 2017

steele-and-smith

L to R: Mayor Raymond Steele and Mayor Pro Tem Sheila H. Smith.

The Eutaw City Council met on November 22, 2016 for its first full meeting since the election to consider business. All members were present.
LaTasha Johnson moved to amend the agenda to consider election of a Mayor Pro Tem of the Council to serve in the absence of the Mayor. This decision was left over from the Council organizational meeting on November 7, 2016. Johnson then proposed rotating Pro Tem for a year’s term, starting with Sheila H. Smith, representing District 4 and then moving to the other districts in numerical order. This motion was approved and Sheila H. Smith was designated as Mayor Pro Tem.
City Attorney Ken Aycock brought up approval of a contract with Co-Bank, a Denver based agricultural cooperative bank, to provide interim construction financing for the $3.1 million loan and grant water project for the City approved by USDA Rural Development. Co-Bank is providing the financing during construction and USDA RD will pay off the construction loan once the project is completed according to the proposed and designed specifications.

Co-Bank’s interest is based on a commercial banking index rate that changes as interest rates rise but is currently close to 1%, which is a very reasonable rate.
The City Council moved to unanimously approve the construction financing agreement with Co-Bank, which was the last remaining paperwork hurdle before the low bidders can start the project.
Mayor Steele introduced a resolution modifying the pay rates of several positions including City Clerk, Water Clerk, Assistant Police Chief and others. The salary adjustments were approved but not shared with the public. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith urged that the City Council consider all the police officers for a raise in the future. The Democrat has submitted a written request for the City’s salary schedule for all employees.
The Council approved the purchase of two used vehicles from ALDOT for use by the City’s Public Works Department. The Council paid outstanding bills and claims for September and October 2016.
The Council approved the travel of the City Clerk to a Municipal Training Conference in Florence, Alabama from November 30 to December 2, 2016. The Council also approved the selection of Walter Beck as Assistant Police Chief.
Mayor Steele brought up the issue of filling seats on the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. In the public comment period later in the meeting, James Powell said it was important to fill these positions so that the Eutaw and Greene County Housing Authorities could proceed with discussion of a merger, which HUD is actively pushing and supporting. “The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants one unified housing board to work through to improve public housing, including Branch Heights, in the city and the county,” said Powell.
Mayor Steele also brought up the need for a resolution for the City of Eutaw to accept the roads and streets in Branch Heights as a first step to finding the resources to solve the problems in Branch Heights. In response to questions, Steele said, “we need an official resolution to clear up any confusion on who owns these streets; and then we can work to find the resources to fix them. The Council asked Attorney Aycock to prepare a resolution for the next meeting.
The Mayor reported that the City water bills were 5 to 6 months behind and that citizens would soon get a water bill for three months and then in January 2017 a water bill catching up on all past due usage. “We will give residents and businesses grace time to pay these water bills, if time and payment plans are needed. We must get the water billing up to date. We are working diligently to make repairs and fix leaks in the system while waiting for the major new steps, like the digital self-reporting meters, that come with the USDA water project.”
Mr. Babb, City Engineer reported on building permits and progress on the resurfacing of Prairie Avenue from the Courthouse Square to Highway 43.