Eutaw City Council challenges mayor on selection of police chief and building inspector

By John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

In an unconventional move, that Mayor Steele called “illegal”, the Eutaw City Council at its April 26 meeting voted to require the Mayor to bring his formal recommendation for filling the positions of Police Chief and City Building Inspector by the Council’s second meeting on the fourth Tuesday in May. Mayor Pro-Tem Hattie Edwards called for a vote and the Council passed the motion over the objections of the Mayor.
Mayor Steele said he had reviewed the applications for Police Chief but had not made up his mind on a recommendation and that he might recommend reopening the process for more applicants to apply for this important position. Councilmembers David Spencer and Sheila H. Smith questioned this saying the Mayor had over three months to fill this position. Councilwoman Edwards brought out that the Mayor had not filled the position of Building Inspector for over a year.
David Spencer said, “The Mayor is trying to run out the clock on these appointments and he needs to fill these positions.” Sheila Smith said the situation was “ridiculous and these positions need to be filled”. She demanded to see copies of all building permits that the Mayor had issued and approved in his capacity as acting Building Inspector over the past year. The Mayor said that she was welcome to come to City Hall and see the permits at any time. Smith said she would come the next morning to review these documents.
Mayor Raymond Steele claimed, “ I have broken no rules in taking time to consider finding the best person to fill these positions and may have to reopen applications for the Police Chief’s position. Assistant Chief Luther Davis is serving as acting Chief in the interim since the death of former chief Tommy Summerville.
The Eutaw Council heard a report from Ms. Cory Johnson of the West Alabama Regional Planning Commission on the possibility of submitting an application for a CDBG grant to repair the City’s main water tank behind City Hall. Johnson explained that the City’s application from last year had not been approved by ADECA. She suggested resubmitting the $400,000 grant application with some changes in this year’s competition.
Johnson said that ADECA, the state agency handling the CDBG grant competition, had changed some conditions for this year’s grant. The state has reinstated a matching requirement of at least 10% and possibly more based on budget cuts. There is also an issue of whether ADECA will accept a house to house survey the City did three years ago, after annexation of Branch Heights, of demographic data in the City to justify the grant or require a new survey which will be costly and may not be possible to complete by the June 20 proposal deadline.
The Council approved a motion to submit a letter requesting a waiver from ADECA of collecting new demographic data on the City, as the first step in deciding on applying for this grant.
After considerable discussion, the Council agreed to pay all bills submitted to the City including an invoice for equipment repair and a $1170 invoice from Attorney Stieverson of Tuscaloosa for conducting a set of hearings for a dismissed employee. These two invoices were not paid at the prior April 12 meeting because several Council members objected to these payments.
In other business, The Eutaw City Council:
*approved a beer and wine license for Dollar General in Eutaw;
*tabled a decision on bus maintenance fees;
*tabled until a working session later in the month, finalization of a grievance policy and other elements of the personnel policies for City employees;
*discussed continuing drainage problems in the City’s Thomas Cemetery, which is damaging some graves and tombs;
*postponed a decision on purchasing new police cars pending receipt of specifications for needed cars and clarifying the status of a grant to USDA Rural Development for police cars;
*approved at its April 12 meeting, a motion to sell New Generation Church a two acre tract on Prairie Avenue for $8,000 an acre for construction of a church and educational center. The church is not permitted to use the land for a cemetery;
*approved at its April 12 meeting, a contribution of $6,000 to the County Commission to assist in the repair of the roads in Branch Heights;
*heard a report from the Mayor that ADECA was not ready to schedule a meeting to discuss the 2005 – $297,000 grant from Delta Regional Authority, for repair of the sewer line on Boligee Street.

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