New Warning System is operational in Greene County

Greene Co. EMA Director Hodges Smith

Greene County has upgraded and enlarged its outdoor warning system. Thanks to a grant from State Representative A.J. McCampbell (D-71st District) more citizens of Greene County will receive warnings of impending severe weather and other hazards.
The grant was provided to the Greene County Emergency Management agency via the Alabama Emergency Management Agency’s Preparedness Program. The $42,000 grant funded the replacement of the inoperable siren in downtown Eutaw. The replacement siren is located at the J.C. Poole Public Library while sirens at Branch Heights and the old National Guard Armory were added to the existing system.
Action of the three new sirens and two existing sirens (Forkland Townhall and Union Town Hall) can now be done simultaneous or individually by dispatchers at the 9-1-1 Center.
“Prior to now the old siren had to be activated manually,” says Greene County EMA Director Hodges Smith. “Now that 9-1-1- dispatchers have the ability to set the siren off, citizens will get emergency alert much quicker and that is important when seconds can save lives.”
Director Smith reminds residents they should not depend on hearing the sirens indoors. “These are out door warning sirens intend to alert people who are outside and would not otherwise have a way to hear warnings,” he said.
The siren system is only part of a growing integrated system for alerting Greene County citizens. Last year FMAlert radios were made available to Greene County via a grant from the National Weather Service. They which were also provided to Greene County EMA through Alabama EMA.
The FMAlert radios are activated by National Weather Service tranmissions utilizing sub-carriers of participating broadcast radio stations. FMAlert receivers are avaliable to the public for $39.99 at Hardy’s Stop and Shop (602 Prairie Avenue in Eutaw). The FMAlert radios have also been placed in schools and other public facilities.
Director Smith says he owes a great deal of gratitude to Rep. McCampbell and the Greene County Commission for working with his agency to upgrade and expand the system for the safety of Greene County residents.
It takes a cross section of methods to reach the largest amount of people with emergency alerts. Director Smith points out that the new additions to the Greene County system is just the beginning of increased efforts to make citizens of the county safer. Smith also points out that owning a NOAA Weather Radio receiver and monitoring broadcast media are important methods of staying on top of the approaching severe weather.
Greene County EMA and the 9-1-1- Dispatch Center will test the entire siren system at 12 noon on the first Wednesday of each month.The first regular test is scheduled for February 2nd. If there is cloudy or inclement weather on the day for the monthly test, the test will be delayed to the first acceptable weather day. “We do not want to unduly frighten people with the tests if weather conditions are not favorable.” say Director Smith.
The FMAlert System will be tested at the same time as the siren system.
Director Smith says he owes a great deal of gratitude to Rep. McCampbell and the Greene County Commission for working with his agency to upgrade and expand the system for the safety of Greene County residents.
It takes a cross section of methods to reach the largest amount of people with emergency alerts. Director Smith points out that the new additions to the Greene County system is just the beginning of increased efforts to make citizens of the county safer. Smith also points out that owning a NOAA Weather Radio receiver and monitoring broadcast media are important methods of staying on top of the approaching severe weather.
Greene County EMA and the 9-1-1- Dispatch Center will test the entire siren system at 12 noon on the first Wednesday of each month.The first regular test is scheduled for February 2nd. If there is cloudy or inclement weather on the day for the monthly test, the test will be delayed to the first acceptable weather day. “We do not want to unduly frighten people with the tests if weather conditions are not favorable.” say Director Smith.
The FMAlert System will be tested at the same time as the siren system.

Jonathan ‘Joe’ Benison inaugurated as Sheriff of Greene County

District Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne administers the oath of office to Sheriff Jonathan Benison at the William McKinley Branch Courthouse in Eutaw. Standing with Benison are his father Elijah Bryant and his daughter Schnarre Benison. Despite the inclement weather, there was a crowd present at the event.

By: John Zippert,

Jonathan “Joe” Benison was formally inaugurated and sworn-in as the new Sheriff of Greene County at a 5:00 PM ceremony Sunday, January 9, 2011 at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw, Alabama.
Benison, who won the Democratic primary in June 2010 and was unopposed in the November elections, was asked by Governor Riley on December 22 to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Sheriff George Cook.
Benison took his position about a month before the January official starting date of his elected term. He becomes the fourth Greene County Sheriff to serve in 2010, after the untimely death of Ison Thomas, the interim service of Coroner Ronald Kent Smith, and the appointment of George Cook by Gov. Bob Riley.
The program included greetings from Nick Underwood, Chair of the Greene County Commission, and Raymond Steele, Mayor of Eutaw, as well as a welcome from Dr. Carol Zippert, local and state leader of the Alabama New South Coalition. Lester Brown, School Board member from District 1, recognized other public officials at the program.
Former Sheriff George Hall was guest speaker who replaced Rev. Thomas Gilmore, who was unable to travel to Greene County due to the inclement weather conditions. Hall praised Benison and said, “Don’t elect a sheriff and then sit down at home waiting for him to perform.
‘ The people must help him uphold the law; don’t leave him by himself; help him and support him in doing the job for the people of Greene County.”
The New Greene Oak Baptist Church choir and Monica Turner of Forkland provided musical selections to honor the new Sheriff,
In his comments, Benison thanked the voters of Greene County for their support in the elections. Benison said he started his law enforcement career at the age of 22, after attending Alabama State University, at the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, under Thomas Gilmore. He then spent 24 years with the Alabama State Troopers out of the Mobile District.
“After 27 years in law enforcement, I have come full circle, back to my home county to be the Sheriff. I will take one day at a time and go forward. I will not let you down. I may sway or bend but I will not fall,“ said Benison.
“This is your Sheriff’s office – not Joe Benison’s office. It belongs to you the citizens of Greene County. We have the best employees and I hope people will respect my decisions with regard to staffing the office. I would like to see the Sheriff’s office represented in every aspect of the community, including churches, schools and businesses.
“I want the public to come through my door when you need my help or just to offer your comments and suggestions. I hope to be more than the top law enforcement officer of Greene County – I want to be a public servant – to serve and protect the people of the county, said Benison.
In his remarks, Benison did not mention the controversy swirling around electronic bingo in Greene County. In the Constitutional Amendment (No. 743) the Sheriff of Greene County is given the primary role of regulating bingo of behalf of the charities and non profit organizations that will benefit from the games.
As reported in last week’s Democrat, Sheriff Benison met with Luther Strange, the newly elected Alabama Attorney General-elect, who has been authorized by the new Governor-elect, Robert Bentley, to follow-up the implementation of the work of the Governor Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Strange warned Benison that he considered the electronic bingo machines confiscated from Greenetrack to be illegal pending final decisions on court cases.
In prior public statements, Benison said he favored the re-opening of electronic bingo at Greenetrack to allow for employment and charitable benefits to flow to Greene County residents and organizations.
The new Sheriff was presented a celebratory plaque by his family. The inaugural ceremony ended with refreshments for the participants

Newly elected Jonathan Benison is embraced by his sister Barbara Jackson as she presents him with a plaque and gift as a loving recognition and salute from family members.

Bingo and politics dominate news in 2010

*Greenetrack and electronic bingo dominated the news, not only in Greene County, but also in most of Alabama in 2010.
In 2009, the Eatman Alumni Association obtained a bingo license and entered into an agreement with Sidetrack LLC to open such an establishment.
This quickly became a moot point when Alabama Governor Bob Riley established an Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The first head of this organization was forced to resign when it was revealed that he won a $2,300 jackpot at a slot machine in Mississippi.
Riley appointed John Tyson. Mobile District Attorney, as the head of his Task Force.
Throughout the month of February, electronic bingo was the main topic of discussion.
On February 23, 2010, over 1,000 people, many of them from Greene County, gathered near the Alabama State House in Montgomery to urge the Alabama Senate to pass a bill for a constitutional amendment to legalize, regulate and tax electronic bingo. The amendment passed on March 30, with 21 senators voting yes. However, the Alabama House never took a vote on this amendment.
Nevertheless, Riley continued his anti-bingo campaign.
Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway foiled a planned raid on June 18 by issuing injunctions against the state.  Tyson appealed this move to the Alabama Supreme Court and on Tuesday, June 29, Alabama State Troopers surrounded Greenetrack, as hundreds of citizens gathered outside the gates. Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn, two county commissioners, State Senator Bobby Singleton and several Greenetrack employees formed a human barricade inside the doors of Greenetrack to prevent the troopers from entering.
However, Riley’s Task Force, aided by the numerous state troopers, finally succeeded in closing the establishment and confiscated all the electronic bingo machines.
The people who had stood inside the door were arrested and charged with obstructing a government organization. They were all later found not guilty in Greene County District Court.
On July 28, 2010, Civil Rights Attorney Jim Blacksher filed a class action suit on behalf of voters of Greene and Macon counties against Gov. Bob Riley and Task Force leader John Tyson in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division. This suit was based on Riley and Tyson’s use of Executive Order 44 to raid and subsequently close down bingo operations in both counties.
The loss of electronic bingo at Greenetrack created a great deal of hardship in Greene County. Almost 400 people lost their jobs and funding for many organizations and governmental entities ceased. Although Greenetrack itself could remain open since parimutuel wagering is legal in Alabama, the revenue generated was not nearly enough to provide jobs and benefits on the same level as electronic bingo did.
The year ended with no change, although many protests were lodged and mass meetings were held.
*The other major story of 2010, this one affecting the entire state, was the Republican victories throughout Alabama on the local and state level in the November General Election.
A second Republican governor, Robert Bentley, was elected and Republicans took control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time in 136 years.
Terri Sewell became the first Alabama Black female elected to Congress. Sewell, a Democrat, serves the 7th Congressional District
On a local level, there were few Republican votes cast in Greene County.
There were two new Democratic faces on the Greene County Commission – Elzora Fluker defeated incumbent Donald Means in District 3 and Allen Turner, Jr. replaced Bill  Johnson, who retired, in District 4.
The Greene County School Board selected Frank Smith to fill the District 3 seat vacated by Fluker. He will serve her unexpired term.
There was some good news in 2010 in Greene County.
*The U. S. Senate finally passed funding for $1.5 billion Pigford II Black farmer class action suit. This opens the door for many farmers in Greene County who filed too late in the Pigford I case to receive the $50,000 settlement or any other type of settlement under the original lawsuit.
Many farmers hope to benefit from this second settlement, but it is strictly for those who had already filed in the initial suit, but filed too late.
The next step is that the settlement must be approved by the Federal District Court in Washington, D. C.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that it could be at least a year before any payments were made and it’s highly unlikely anyone will get money until some time in 2012.
*During the year 2010, Greene County had a total of four sheriffs – Ison Thomas, Ronald Kent Smith, George Cook and Joe Benison.
Thomas was elected Greene County Sheriff in 2006 with a historic write-in campaign and was respected by most of the citizens of Greene County.
Thomas died on April 3, 2010 from complications of cancer. Alabama law provides that on the death of a sitting sheriff, the county coroner takes the office. This made Smith the new Greene County Sheriff.
In the June primary, Joe Benison was elected sheriff, but despite that Riley appointed George Cook as Greene County’s sheriff. Cook was an ABC officer who had never held a position of leadership.
Cook resigned his position in December and Gov. Riley appointed Joe Benison as sheriff. Benison officially took the oath of office on December 22. This made four sheriffs in the county in less than a year.
Benison will be sworn in again on January 9, 2010 in a public ceremony to begin the term he was elected for.
*The City of Eutaw also lost its lead law enforcement office when Police Chief Tommy Summerville died on December 9th. Summerville has not yet been replaced, but Asst. Chief Luther Davis is serving as interim chief while the city goes through the application process.
*On Friday, February 26, 2010, the Greene County High School Tigers Basketball team easily beat Madison Academy 61-44 to win the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Championship. The entire county celebrated their victory.
*The Eutaw City Council has dealt with some thorny problems this past year. A resolution brought up in to create an Industrial Development Authority was tabled for the fourth time in six months in the March meeting. This authority would have replaced the existing Industrial Development Board. To create the authority, the council would have to transfer its 45% of the land in Crossroads of America Industrial Park to the Authority. Danny Cooper, then chair of the IDB, said he could not understand their hesitancy to support the resolution since most of them had told him in private they did support it.
He said that Greene County had already lost one business to another town because they were unable to act swiftly to provide a land option.
The creation of this authority was was approved at a later meeting.
In March, the council removed Mayor Raymond Steele from signing checks on any city account. Instead they designated two of three persons – city clerk Peggy Stripling, Councilwoman Hattie Edwards and Councilman Ralph Liverman as signees.
Elam Properties requested an ordinance change to allow them to open a recycling plant in Eutaw. The Zoning Board recommended that the Eutaw City Council deny this request. However, the council voted 3-1 to support a new ordinance to change the zoning of the former Sumer Veneer site from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry), which could allow Elam Properies to locate in the city.
In May the council questioned why SouthFresh Catfish Processers only paid the city $500 per month for water and sewage. This was resolved before the end of the year, with an agreement that Southfresh would pay $3,000 per month for the next 12 months, which will help city finances.
On a more positive note, Dr. Arnaldo Sanchez, a doctor of internal medicine, joined the staff of the Greene County Hospital and Physicians Clinic.

Bingo gaming seemingly in ‘strange’ hands

Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison

Attorney General-Elect Luther Strange
Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison met with Attorney General-Elect Luther Strange recently to discuss law enforcement issues including electronic bingo gaming.
The Alabama Attorney General-Elect maintains that the electronic bingo machine is an illegal slot machine, according to Sheriff Benison. Strange indicated that he is waiting on a definitive ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court regarding the Cornerstone Community Outreach case still pending. Cornerstone is a non-profit organization that owned and operated the White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County before the bingo gaming operation was raided and closed by Governor Bob Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling on March 19, 2009.
Benison said that he pointed out to Strange that Greene County is the only area in the state that has a constitutional amendment authorizing electronic bingo. “The Greene County situation is unique. The people voted; the Amendment passed and a constitutional amendment is the highest people-made law in the nation,” Benison emphasized. Strange reportedly noted that Greene County was reading too much into that Amendment.
According to Benison, the Attorney General-Elect cautioned that although the Task Force on Illegal Gambling instituted by Governor Bob Riley is disbanded, his office once again has control of bingo and he intends to use it.
Sheriff Benison asserted that he is very determined to stand with his community. He said that seemingly the status of electronic bingo gaming in Greene County remains the same since the Task Force raid at Greenetrack in June 2010.
“This is a sad time for our unemployed citizens. I will diligently work every avenue to bring relief and resolution to the people of Greene County in regards to the legal Bingo Amendment #743 voted into law by citizens of Greene County.
“I believe bingo gaming is legal in Greene County. I will do everything I can to see that jobs come back to Greene County,” pledged Benison.

Editor’s Note

The Democrats’ research revealed that the Alabama Constitution has been amended time and time again, both on a state-wide level and a local level. It is ‘strange’ to us that this one particular bingo amendment, which was duly passed by the Alabama Legislature and voted upon by the citizens of Greene County, has been singled out and disregarded when the hundreds of amendments previously passed were not challenged.

Cook resigns as Sheriff; Benison takes office

Pictured L-R Commission Chair William “Nick” Underwood, Sheriff Jonathan Benison, and Commissioners Tennyson Smith, Elzora Fluker and Allen Turner, Jr.

Surrounded by members of the Greene County Commission, Sheriff Jonathan Benison announced that he had officially taken the oath of office as Sheriff of Greene County on December 22, 2010.
This followed the surprising resignation of Sheriff George Cook, who had been appointed by Governor Bob Riley earlier in the year.
Commission Chair William “Nick” Underwood told the crowd who had gathered at the courthouse, “This is cause for deep thanks. Benison represents stability for Greene County. Joe is the 4th person to serve as Sheriff since April of this year. We welcome with open arms this appointment,”
Benison promised all those gathered that he would be “a sheriff for all the people of Greene County.
“Under my administration, this will be a fair playing field. Nobody would be left out.”
Benison spoke of his ties to Greene County – of having started his law enforcement career as a Greene County Deputy, serving with the Alabama Highway Patrol until his retirement and then run for and been elected sheriff.
Members of the audience were quick to ask him about his position on the legality of electronic bingo in Greene County.
“Bingo is the issue,” said Benison, “and I am prepared to deal with bingo. We voted for bingo. I am for bingo.”
Benison will publically take the oath of office on January 9, 2011 at 5 p.m. at the courthouse.
Several at Tuesday’s press conference asked Underwood where former Sheriff George Cook was going from Greene County. Underwood said he was not at liberty to discuss anything about Cook.
A majority of local citizens still believe that Riley sent Cook to Greene County for the sole purpose of halting electronic bingo at Greenetrack.
Just days after Cook took office, on June 18, 2010, Riley’s task force attempted to raid Greenetrack, but were unsuccessful due to action taken by Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway.
A second raid on June 30, 2010 was successful, due to intervention by the Riley Supreme Court. Hundreds of State Troopers and members of the Task Force removed all the electronic bingo machines.
This action negatively affected most of Greene County. Hundreds of people lost their jobs; many charities and governmental organizations lost the funding which had been a part of the Constitutional Amendment legalizing bingo; businesses lost customers due to the high unemployment.
After the Tuesday press conference, Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn spoke about Benison, saying, “I was pleased to hear the comments made today by our new Sheriff, Joe Benison, in regards to bingo in Greene County. The Alabama Board of Industrial Relations is reporting that $516,000 has been paid over the last quarter to unemployed residents of Greene County due to the closure of bingo at Greenetrack. Currently, Greene County has the second highest unemployment rate in the state with Wilcox County being number one. Prior to the closing of bingo, Greene County had reached economic success and had come from being listed as the 66th poorest county in Alabama out of 67 counties to being 31st. Until July 2010, Greene County was the fastest growing county in the state. We know that we can achieve this success again, and I am very encouraged by Sheriff Benison’s remarks and hope that we can put the people of Greene County back to work soon.”

Mayor Steele says he will advertise for police chief ‘soon’

The Eutaw City Council began its meeting on Tuesday, December 28 with only one item of business on its agenda. – an application from Wayne Spencer for an off premises beer and wine license for S & S Grocery.
However, the first motion from the council was to amend this agenda to include further discussion on the city attorney. This motion was unanimously approved and the council went into executive session since good name and character were to be discussed.
After approximately 30 minutes, they returned, but had nothing to report.
Before the meeting ended, Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked Mayor Raymond Steele if he was getting any applications for the position of police chief.
Steele replied that advertising for this position “should go to next week.”
The council discussed Spencer’s request for a license and approved it unanimously, pending approval by the State ABC Board.
The question concerning the grant for a sewer project which had been discussed at the last meeting did not come up. However, after the meeting, Mayor Steele said, “I do not know of any documentation that this grant has been taken away from us. I asked a representative from ADECA concerning this and she said we would sit down and talk after the holidays.”
Steele also told the council that the city had received two police cars from Selma. The council approved allowing city employees to take 1/2 day off on December 30 and a full day on December 31 for the New Year’s holiday.

Greene County Industrial Development Board adopts resolution to become Industrial Development Authority

Board members signing documents are seated L-R Danny Cooper, Allen Turner, Sr., and Darrow Jones. Standing L-R are Elzora Fluker, Tennyson Smith, Luther Winn, Ralph Banks, John Zippert and James Morrow.

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 the Greene County Industrial Development Board (GCIDB) adopted a resolution to change its structure and become an Industrial Development Authority.
Officers of the IDB – Danny Cooper, Chair; Allen Turner, Vice-Chair, John Zippert, Secretary and Ralph Banks, Treasurer – signed the necessary papers to incorporate as the Greene County Industrial Development Authority. The Greene County Commission, the City of Eutaw, Towns of Forkland, Boligee and Union all passed resolutions in support of reconstituting the structure of the IDB as an Industrial Development Authority.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the IDB said, “ An industrial authority has broader powers and greater flexibility than the IDB format.
The Industrial Development Authority is favored by the State of Alabama as a structure through which counties can do industrial parks and industrial development on a single county or multi-county basis. The new authority will also give us greater flexibility in financing industrial development projects.”
The new Greene County Industrial Development Authority (GCIDA) will have an 11 person Board of Directors with five appointed by the Greene County Commission; one each from Eutaw, Forkland and Boligee; and three appointed by the Authority’s Executive Committee.
Belcher says, “ once the new GCIDA is formally set up, we will transfer the assets and properties of the current IDB, including the land in the Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee to the new structure.”
In other actions, the Greene County IDB and GCIDA are negotiating with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for return of the former Tire and Wheel Assembly plant and 14 acre site on the south side of Interstate 20/59. The state took possession of this facility when T&WA defaulted on a HUD loan that the State of Alabama had guaranteed. The building is currently leased to Rock-Tenn as a warehouse for the production of its box plant in Eutaw, Alabama.
If the transfer occurs lease payments would come to the new Industrial Development Authority for its budget, maintenance of the building and to create a revolving loan fund for industrial development.
Belcher reported that the IDB staff and Board were working on three prospective projects that had options on much of the useable land in the Crossroads of America Park. Each of these projects would generate a sizable number of new jobs for residents of Greene County.
Due to confidentiality agreements, the staff and Board are not able to publicly discuss the specifics of these projects until they are officially announced by the prospects.
The IDB/IDA has also agreed to set aside about 200 acres in the 1,500 acre Crossroads of America Park as a “wetlands mitigation area” which would allow full use of the rest of the land in the park and may allow the Board to sell wetland mitigation rights to other parties to earn funding for development.
Danny Cooper, IDB/IDA Board Chair said, “The process of industrial development is sometimes excruciatingly slow, especially in rural places like Greene County and in difficult economic times like those we are currently experiencing in our state and nation. But we want to assure the citizens of the county that we are still working to bring jobs and industries – and some big announcements should be coming in 2011!”

Eutaw Council disagrees with Mayor over city attorney

At the regular meeting of the Eutaw City Council on Tuesday, December 14, the council once again tried to convince Mayor Raymond Steele to seek another city attorney.
Shelia Smith made the motion that the city advertise the post of city attorney.
Steele refused to accept the motion, saying it was out of order.
He also said that the council had no reason to be dissatisfied with the current attorney Mike Smith.
“What about the cost?” asked councilmember Ralph Liverman, and added dates and times that one or more councilmember complained to Steele about Smith.
Councilmember Hattie Edwards told Steele he could not just disregard a motion from the council that had been made and seconded. Steele said he could if the motion was out of order.
After more complaints from the council, Steele suggested a 7 a.m. meeting on Wednesday, December 22.
Edwards replied that the matter could be settled right then – that they were in a public meeting.
Steele refused to consider the motion. At this point, Liverman suggested that a meeting be called for 7 a.m. on Tuesday, December 21. This was approved by the council.

Grant okayed in 2004 still
not utilized

The next item to be discussed was a grant approved for the city in 2004.
Councilwoman Edwards wanted to know why the money had not been used and if the $79,000 matching money the city had to have was still in the budget.
Steele advised her that this money had never been in the budget – that it was to have been borrowed.
He told them that he could not control ADECA and it was not his actions which were slowing up the grant. He said that he would try to contact the persons necessary to move forward with the grant.New Water and Sewer Rates
for Southfresh passed

The council unanimously approved a contract for one year setting water and sewage rates for Southfresh Catfish Processing Plant.
Southfresh will pay a total of $3,000 per month for water and sewage. At the end of the year-long contract, a new contract will be negotiated.
The next item to be discussed concerned the roads in Branch Heights and King Village.
Councilpersons Joe Powell and Hattie Edwards, both of whom represent parts of the area under discussion, told the mayor that something has to be done about the condition of the roads.
Steele advised them that the county had assumed responsibility for the roads being discussed and any questions they had should be directed to them.
Edwards reminded Steele that the last time he ran for Mayor, he told people in these areas that he had a letter from ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) advising that they were going to fix the roads. “What happened?” she asked.
“The city of Eutaw is maintaining the roads for which we are responsible,” retorted Steele. “The county chose to take these roads and we should let them!”
Powell advised him that residents in the area affected by the roads had organized a committee and had contacted “6 on Your Side,” a television news show that features investigative journalists discussing various inequities around the state. According to Powell, the reporters had agreed to do a show in Eutaw which would go out all over the state.
Another issue unanimously approved was to allow Let Thy Kingdom Come Outreach Ministry to use the city bus to transport approximately 100 youth to Atlanta to pick up toys and food with the city providing the bus driver, gas and bus. This decision was later rescinded when it was discovered that the bus had already been booked for that day.
Council members suggested that a record of who has the bus rented and when would be helpful in making decisions as to whether or not it is available.
In the public comment period following the business meeting, one citizen told Steele that he had taken responsibility for the Branch Heights/King Village roads and that the citizens should not have to fight to get them repaired.
Another citizen admonished the council, saying that they should work more closely with the mayor.
After hearing several more comments, the meeting was adjou rned with plans to meet again on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Tuesday Meeting

At the Tuesday meeting, which had been transformed to a working session, nothing was immediately done to change the city attorney’s status.
Steele was adamant that he and only he had the authority to hire and fire city employees. Councilmembers objected to his interpretation of the rules. Councilman David Spencer said that when the mayor said a motion was out of order, the council could address disposition of the matter and possibly overrule the mayor.
He admitted that the mayor had certain powers but the council had an ordinance which gives the council the power to question certain decisions.
“When a motion is made and seconded,” said Councilwoman Edwards, “it is on the floor and should be voted up or down.
Steele disagreed, saying that if a motion is made by the council concerning an action over which that the body has no authority to proceed, then the motion is out of order.
It was brought out that City Attorney Mike Smith receives $1,500 per month as a retainer and gets $195 per hour, as well as 50.5¢ a mile travel expenses. Smith did say he didn’t bill the city for portions of hours. It was also revealed that Smith did not have a contract with the city.
According to Mayor Steele, he reappointed Attorney Mike Smith in 2008 for a four year duration.
He stated that the council cannot change this since the council cannot hire or fire, only approve or disapprove. “The City Ordinance of April 2010 confirms this,” said Steele.
Because this meeting had been labeled as a working meeting, no motions were made nor was any official action taken.
The council merely discussed various issues without taking any action.
They were advised by the Mayor that he had spoken with someone at ADECA about the pending grant and that a meeting would be scheduled after the holidays.

Alabama Power donates $100,000 to the Black Belt Community Foundation

href=””&gt;L-R are Mark Crews, Felecia Jones, George McMillan and Dess Feick<a

On Wednesday, December 8, 2010, Alabama Power Company made a $100,000 donation to the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF). The presentation was made by Mark Crews, Vice President for the Alabama Power Western Division in Tuscaloosa and Dess Feick with the Alabama Power Birmingham Office.
This $100,000 contribution will be matched by $50,000 from the Ford Foundation as part of the foundation’s challenge grant to BBCF. The Ford Foundation has offered the BBCF up to $1 million at the rate of one dollar for every two dollars it raises toward its endowment fund.
“The Black Belt Community Foundation can’t say thank you enough to Alabama Power and all our friends inside and outside of the Black Belt who have demonstrated their commitment to making the region better,” said Felecia Jones, foundation executive director. “It’s through their generous support, leadership, hard work and dedication that we are able to help create a more prosperous Black Belt.”
The Black Belt Community Foundation was established in 2004.
Its purpose was to support local efforts that contribute to the strength, innovation, and success of all of the region’s people and communities.
To date, BBCF has awarded more than $1.6 million in grants to support more than 400 community led initiatives across the foundation’s 12 county service area.
The Ford Foundation has recognized BBCF’s good work by selecting it as one of only five nonprofit organizations nationwide to participate in its Rural Development Philanthropy Endowment Initiative. Through the Ford Foundation initiative, BBCF has been challenged to build an endowment that can sustain its important mission for generations to come.
“It’s clear to us how the Black Belt Community Foundation has been working to transform the Black Belt, making it a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power executive vice president. “Alabama Power is very pleased to contribute to the BBCF’s success and help it further its goal of creating a more vital Black Belt region.”
Alabama Power’s donation, plus the matching grant from the Ford Foundation, boosts the
BBCF endowment to more than $ 1.3 million. Jones said she hopes the Alabama Power gift will help spur additional contributions from corporations and foundations and bring the
BBCF closer to its $2 million goal.
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but there is so much more to accomplish,” Jones said. “With the help of corporate, philanthropic and community partners, we want to continue to contribute to the growth and development of the Black Belt and its people.”
For more information about the Black Belt Community Foundation, visit
To learn how you can help support the organization and its Ford Foundation challenge grant, contact the BBCF Office at 334-874-1126 or
Shown above are: Erica Crenshaw, Samory Pruitt, Feleica Jones, George McMillan, Dess Feick, Kathy McVay, Carol P. Zippert, Rev. Chris Spencer and Whitney Green

Eutaw Police Chief Tommy Summerville dies

<a Eutaw Police Chief
Tommy Summerville

href=””&gt;Eutaw Police Officers march through downtown Eutaw as an honor guard for the hearse bearing the body of Eutaw Police Chief Tommy Summerville to St. Stephens Episcopal Church where funeral services were held.

Eutaw Police Chief Tommy Summerville, 56, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham on Thursday, December 9, 2010.
Summerville had been Chief of Police in Eutaw since September of 2007 and had been on the force for 33 years.
He was a graduate of the University of West Alabama. He was chosen as an “Outstanding Young Man of America” in 1986 and in March of 1998 he was named Assistant Police Chief of Eutaw.
“He was an excellent police chief, he had a great knowledge of the law enforcement field,” said Eutaw Police Sgt. Derrick Coleman. “He had a heart of gold. He loved and cared for everyone.”
Summerville was a familiar sight in Eutaw, patrolling the streets even after becoming chief. He was the department’s first K-9 officer and for several years, he and his K-9 companion Rain not only continued to patrol the streets and neighborhoods of Eutaw but visited in schools where he demonstrated Rain’s ability to the youth.
“He just had a big heart for everyone, his officers and the citizens,” Coleman said. “He loved working with Rain and his officers.
“It’s what he did before he made chief, and it’s what he kept on doing,” said Coleman.
On Monday, December 13, a formal police funeral was held for Summerville beginning with a march around the Eutaw Town Square. Law enforcement personnel, not only from Greene County, but surrounding counties as well, gathered to pay honor to one of their own.
Services were held at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, with interment in Pleasant Ridge, AL.
Summerville is survived by a wife and an adult son.


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