Eutaw City Council continues to debate financial issues

The Eutaw City Council met twice during the past month on June 11 and June 25 to do the business of the city. The Council continues to debate financial issues which affect other major policy and project decisions.
The Council still does not have a clear budget, showing income sources and expenditures. A budget and an audit are being worked on but no written information is available yet for the City Council as a basis for its actions. Two separate CPA firms are working on the budget and audits but no documents have been produced yet.
A budget would be helpful for the City Council to see the flow of incoming revenues and the payment of expenses for planning future projects and obligations. The audits are needed to verify past operations to file applications with USDA Rural Development, ADECA and other state and federal agencies for needed equipment and new projects to improve the city.
A listing of bills to be paid was presented at each meeting. The June 11 list shows $276,365 in unpaid bills and the June 25 listing shows a reduction in outstanding bills to $265,243.
Councilwoman Latosha Johnson praised City Clerk Kathy Bir for preparing an understandable list of the City’s obligations to allow the council to make decisions on which bills are most pressing and need immediate payment.
The Mayor suggested using funds in a special infrastructure account, set up by the Sheriff, with bingo funds, to pay for improvements to the Branch Heights Roads. These roads were repaired using funds in the highway tax accounts. Several council-members opposed the Mayor’s proposal to spend these funds to pay other bills and initiate other road repair projects without consulting with the Sheriff and clarifying what the City did and plans to do with funds. Again, it is clear that a budget with up to date revenue and expenditure amounts would help to resolve what seemed to be difficult and at times insurmountable problems facing the city.In a related financial matter, the City Council and Mayor deadlocked in a 3 to 3 vote, with Latosha Johnson, Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voting in favor and Joe Lee Powell, Benny Abrams and Mayor Raymond Steele voting against a proposal for pay increases for the police force, supported by donations from the TS Police League, a bingo charity associated with the Palace Bingo Group. The Mayor voted for a tie vote to stop the motion until he had time to discuss with the City Attorney and other legal advisors.
In other actions, the City Council:
• Heard from City Attorney Zane Willingham that the Sate Legislature had passed local legislation to allow for Sunday liquor sales; Willingham said he would draft a new ordinance for on and off premises sale of alcoholic beverages, for consideration at the next Council meeting;
• Received a report from Rev. Jerome McIntosh of SCORE International, a religious organization that wishes to partner with the City on a job skills training program, to be offered at the Carver School – Robert H. Young Community Center;
• Approved travel expenses for Police Chief Derrick Coleman to attend a conference on leadership at UNA in Fort Payne on June12-14, 2019;
• Referred legal claims from Erica Purse and Roland Elliot to the City Attorney;
• Appointed Mrs. Isaac Atkins to serve on the Eutaw Housing Authority Board of Directors.
During the public comment period, a number of residents complained about drainage, road repairs, grass cutting, refuse removal and other similar problems in areas around the city.

Eutaw water tower taken down, first step in water improvement project

water-towerAt the January 10, 2017 Eutaw City Council meeting, Mayor Raymond Steele announced that the old city water tower behind City Hall was taken down as the first step in a $3.1 million water improvement project financed by USDA Rural Development.
The 250,000 gallon water tower, constructed in 1921 and deemed by engineers as too costly to repair, will be replaced with a new water tower as part of the project. The contractor with a large crane dismantled the tower in less than two days.
The City Council approved paying bills for December 2016 with the exception of bills from Babbs Engineering. The City informed Babbs that his contract was terminated around Thanksgiving but he did not receive notice until the first week of December and he had already been working for another month. There is also a large outstanding bill for engineering on the Prairie Avenue resurfacing project, which can be reimbursed from the ALDOT that contracted for this work.
The Eutaw City Council approved a resolution amending the Prairie Avenue agreement with ALDOT to include paving other side streets that adjoin Prairie Avenue.
The City Council also agreed in principle with a request from Mayor Steele to involve HERO Inc., a non-profit housing development organization from Greensboro (Hale County) in the development of houses on land on Harris Avenue in Eutaw.
The Council also approved holding a “Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday” later in the year for the sale of generators, batteries, flashlights and other supplies for emergencies. The projected dates for this holiday were not announced. The Council tabled a listing of excess vehicles for sale because the full list is still under development.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith requested a working meeting of the Public Safety Committee to discuss police procedures and needs. The meeting was scheduled as part of a working session on January 24 at 5:30 PM before the next regular City Council meeting.
In the public comment session two citizens raised complaints. Charles Swanson of Eutaw complained about ambulance service for his wife and Channel Glenn complained that people were trying to harm or steal her dogs, “which are just like my children” she argued. She also questioned the use of HERO Inc. as an effective housing developer.
The Mayor said he would look into both complaints. Steele told Ms. Glenn that her pit-bull dogs were of great concern to other residents of the community who were afraid of the dogs attacking them. He also said that he was going to have to enforce the ordinances against violent dogs that were not properly restrained.