Eutaw City Council approves ordinance for police officers to drive cars home; Sunday liquor sales; and tables action on matching funds for downtown development

Shown above Mayor Raymond Steele, City Council members and Eutaw Police Officers.

The Eutaw City Council took action on a variety of outstanding issues but tabled a major downtown development and beautification project until Mayor Steele provides more information on the city’s finances and budget.
The Council approved a resolution allowing members of the Eutaw Police Department to drive their official police car home and to use the car to commute back and forth to work from their home location, even if it is in another county. The cars are not to be used for personal purposes but only for the commute from work to home and home to work.
The TS Police Support Foundation, a local charity connected with the Palace Bingo in Knoxville, agreed to pay the additional mileage, gas and maintenance costs for cars used by police officers to commute to work. The resolution acknowledges the contribution of the TS Police Foundation to make this resolution possible. Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith, who also works as an officer of the charity helped spearhead this effort.
The Council approved a first reading of an ordinance to permit alcohol sales on Sunday in the city limits of Eutaw. Eutaw Bait Shop and 12 Roots Restaurant, a new restaurant under renovation at the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square, requested this ordinance. The original resolution, which must be approved by the Alabama Legislature, named only the two establishments that requested the change. The City Council decided that this opportunity should be extended to all businesses that request expanded Sunday alcohol sales.
The Council also approved a policy that the City would no longer accept cash payments effective the first week of February. Only checks and money orders will be accepted for water bills and other municipal charges to reduce the chance for losses. Councilman Bennie Abrams inquired if the council members had checked on the impact of this policy on low-income people who did not have checking accounts. The other Council members felt this policy was best for the city. The Council also approved Joe Lee Powell, LaJeffrey Carpenter and City Clerk Kathy Bir as signatories on the municipal bank accounts.
The Council approved an ordinance to declare a storage building adjacent to the National Guard Armory as surplus not needed for public use. Councilwoman Latasha Johnson has been pushing this ordinance as a way to allow the City to lease this building to REACH Inc. for its used furniture distribution service, which has been evicted from the Robert H. Young Civic Center (formerly Carver School).
Mayor Steele objected to the resolution because he contends that the storage building is used and needed for storage of the city’s Christmas lights, ornaments and other supplies. The Council approved the resolution as a first reading as an ordinance subject to a second reading and approval at the next City Council meeting. In the public comments section, some nearby residents said they did not want a furniture business on the grounds of the Armory.
Mayor Steele requested approval to begin engineering work on the TAPNU-TA grant, a $600,000 grant awarded to the city for sidewalks, lanterns and other improvements to the downtown Courthouse square area of Eutaw. The Mayor indicated that he was seeking $210.000 in matching funds for this project by grant and loan funds. The Council tabled further action on this TAPNU-TA grant until the Mayor responds to their questions on city finances and a budget.
The Council felt that without clarity on the city’s finances, including revenues and expenses, in a budget, it could not determine the affordability of borrowing to do new projects. This concern over the City’s finances has been a recurring theme of Council opposition to the Mayor’s plans to revitalize and improve the city.
Council members Latasha Johnson, Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter made a motion to approve the appointment of Attorney Joshua Swords as Municipal Judge for Eutaw. Councilman Bennie Abrams asked if the other council members had discussed this choice with the Police Department. Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked if the current Municipal Judge, Attorney William ‘Nick’ Underwood, had retired or resigned and why we needed a new judge. The appointment of Swords was approved on a 3 to 1 vote with Abrams abstaining. Mayor Steele also objected to this appointment but it was approved by a majority vote of the City Council.
The Council approved travel for the Court Clerk to a regional seminar for municipal court officials in Birmingham on April 4 and 5, 2019. It also approved an increase in the travel mileage rate to $0.58 per mile in conformity with Federal standards.
Mayor Steele reported that resurfacing of the roads in Branch Heights had been completed and that Central Asphalt did a good job;
clearing of the site for the Love’s Truck Stop has begun and the sewer extension project will begin on January 25, 2019 . He further stated that he was working to pay the most urgent outstanding bills first and work on a report for the Council so they will understand the city’s financial situation.