Commission receives $272,420 from Greenetrack in April

Despite the devastation caused by the recent tornados, the people of Greene County got some good news at the regular meeting of the Greene County Commission.
According to Commission Chair William “Nick”  Underwood, Greenetrack has paid their $250,000 yearly rent to the county. In addition, the county received $22,420 from their share of the bingo proceeds in April.
Over three million chickens were killed in the county as well as other livestock, but thanks to the efforts of legislators including State Senators Hank Sanders and Bobby Singleton, Greene was added to the counties eligible to participate in a $10 million grant to fund jobs for work in the tornado recovery. Initially, Greene County was not included, but according to Underwood, it took only an hour to make the change and include Greene.
According to County Engineer Arzo Abrams, FEMA will contract with the Corps of Engineer to clean rights of ways and remove debris from roadsides.
Commissioner Underwood stated that an effort will be made to secure a waiver allowing FEMA and the Corps to also remove debris from the property of families affected by the storms.
In other business, the commission:
*Ratified the Chairman’s action to initiate a recall of all but two of the employees who were laid off.
*Approved reinstating EMA personnel who had been laid off. The state gave the county $5,000 to fund this,
*Approved Eutaw Activity Center as the designated Disaster Recovery Center.
*Discussed the cut in the state funding for the Retired Senior Citizen Program (RSVP). According to County Administrator Mattie Atkins, the budget for their programs has been cut by 20%. She suggested that rather than concentrating on the number of participants, they were to concentrate on the impact that RSVP has on the county. The largest cut, she said, will be in salaries.
It was also decided to withhold approval of the RSVP manager’s trip to Louisiana until it was determined whether or not the trip was mandatory and how much money would be received from the state.
*Approved supplying labor and materials to help fix the roads in Branch Heights. The city will put in $5,000 in cash.
Commissioner Marvin Childs asked what was being done about Sumter County’s participation in this program. For years, Sumter has participated but not paid into the funding. He was told that two commissioners from each county would meet on the last Monday in May.
*Discussed a recent report on the population of each district. “The commission is going to have to go through a redistricting,” said Atkins. “Districts 1, 3 & 5 will be affected. One has too many people. Five doesn’t have enough. District 4 needs to put some areas in District 5. The ideal balance for each district is 1,809 people. Atkins said the changes will cost the county no more than $8,500 and would probably be done by West Alabama Regional Commission.
Underwood suggested that a cost estimate be prepared and the matter be tabled until it could be reviewed in detail.
*It was decided to meet with the Ralph/Fosters Water Authority to ask for the names and addresses of their customers in order to add them to the mandatory garbage collection fee list. A meeting will be held with Ralph/Fosters at 6 p.m. on May 31.
*Approved transfer of ABC license from Midway Mart to Trackside to Rajuinder Singh
*Approved appointment of Sue Vance to District 2 Greene County Hospital Board and Shirley Scott Isaac to District 4 for the same board. Their terms will begin when the current board members’ terms end.
*Appointed Mary Snoddy to the Park and Recreation Association Board.
*Tabled an appointment to the West Alabama Regional Transportation Board until further discussion.
*Approved a recommendation from Engineer Arzo Abrams to accept a bid for a motor grader blade.
*Agreed to provide labor and materials to beginning repairing pot holes on Branch Heights roads.

Tornado destroys homes, churches, trailers and other structures in West Alabama



Pictured above is Christian Valley Baptist Church in Tishabee. Below is Mt.Pilgrim Baptist Church, located right across the road from Mt. Pilgrim. Both churches were destroyed by the tornado that hit the Southern area of Greene County last Wednesday. Many homes and other structures were destroyed in that area as well as in the Mantua/Snoddy communities.


Late Wednesday afternoon on April 27, a tornado roared through West Alabama and East Mississippi, destroying everything it touched. The tornado funnel was more than a mile wide at some points, and is said to have contained several smaller funnels.
The amount of damage done has not been estimated, but at least four churches in Greene County were destroyed and many homes and trailers either totally lost or seriously damaged throughout West Alabama. At least four lives were lost in Sawyerville, Hale County.
In the aftermath of this almost unbelievable damage, community, state and federal organizations rallied to help the residents pick up the pieces.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated over 30 counties, including Greene, Sumter, Marengo, Hale, and Tuscaloosa as disaster areas.
You may apply for assistance by calling FEMA’s toll-free registration number – 800-621-FEMA between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time. Hearing and speech impaired persons can use the TTY number 800-462-7585 or e-mail http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Epes, AL has reactivated the Federation Rural Training and Research Center (FSC), near Epes, Alabama, as a staging and supply storage area for assistance, i.e., food, water, clothing, equipment, supplies, to surrounding rural communities, impacted by the storms.
The FSC is making its dormitory (with 60 bunk beds) and kitchen available for people coming from outside the area to work on relief and recovery efforts in Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. The Center is located 50 miles south of Tuscaloosa and provides easy access to these areas, without imposing on people in the direct impact area.
The Federation needs the support and assistance of its members, partners and friends in making this tornado response meaningful, sensitive and successful. You may contact us and donate funds and other materials designated for disaster relief through our website at http://www.federation.coop.
“We will be concentrating our direct emergency assistance to families in small rural communities in the Alabama Black Belt counties surrounding Tuscaloosa,” said Program Director John Zippert.
You can directly contact the Federation Rural Training and Research Center, 575 Federation Road (P. O. Box 95) in Epes, Alabama 35460; or by calling 205/652-9676 or e-mail at fscepes@mindspring.com or http://www.federation.coop. Ask for John Zippert, Director; Debra Eatman, Logistics Coordinator; Ms. Pam Madzima, Co-op Development Program; and Osa Idehen, Outreach Coordinator.
So far, the Federation has received communications from citizens in Sumter, Greene, Hale, Pickens, Choctaw, Monroe and Marengo counties and is still contacting other people.
Community Aid Center Open
A community program in Eutaw activated during the Katrina disaster is now open to help tornado victims.
Located at 114 Tuscaloosa Street across from the Greene County Courthouse in Eutaw, the Community Aid Center is collecting donated items to be distributed to those in need.
Volunteers run the center which has remained open at least part time since the group of concerned citizens founded it when so many refugees from Hurricane Katrina came through Greene County.Items needed include, but are not limited to, canned goods, toiletry items, paper towels, male and female undergarments in all sizes, laundry items, and other nonperishable items.
The center will be open from 9 a.m. until Noon and from 4-6 p.m. in the afternoon Monday through Friday. For more information, contact Linda Spencer at 205-496-0373, Pastor Joe Webb or Mrs. Gwen Webb at 205-499-1961.
Your support will be greatly appreciated.
Area churches are also collecting and distributing nonperishables and other items.

Local leaders urge solidarity in assisting tornado damaged communities

Mrs. Mary Lee Wilder, age 99, receives food items from Greene County SCLC President Spiver W. Gordon and Lorenzo French. Gordon delivered 100 pieces of chicken donated by Church’s Chicken as well as canned goods, bottled water, soft drinks and other items donated by local merchants to residents in areas hit by the tornadoes which struck Greene County


Community leaders including county commissioners, mayors, church pastors, EMA and other service agencies, non-profit organizations and concerned citizens gathered in the William M. Branch Courthouse Tuesday night to promote a spirit of solidarity in securing assistance for families directly affected by the recent tornados and storms.
The idea for the gathering was spurred among the citizens volunteering in the damaged areas over the week end, sharing basic necessities including water, food, clothing and toiletries with persons in need.
Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele explained that the meeting was called to encourage the leadership of Greene County to share information and devise a plan of action to meet the needs of citizens affected by the recent storms. “We, as elected officials and service providers, wanted to show unity and team effort in assisting the storm victims,” stated Mayor Steele.
Various persons shared the work that had begun in the hardest hit communities. Commissioner Nick Underwood, who represents the Mantua, Snoddy and Jena communities, where many homes and other structures were lost or severely damaged, noted that churches in the area have collected large stocks of food, water, ice and other items that are being delivered to people. The distribution centers in the northern part of the Greene County include Shiloh Baptist Church in Jena, Johnson Hill Methodist Church in Union and the Mantua Volunteer Fire Department as well as Springhill United Methodist Church.
Commissioner Allen Turner, who represents Forkland and Tishabee, reminded the group that the southern part of Greene County had been hit hard with back-to-back tornados. In addition to homes, both Mt. Pilgrim and Christian Valley Churches were destroyed in the tornado last Wednesday. Morning Star Church, Tishabee, was destroyed by a tornado the previous week.
“We have been working tirelessly to assist families left homeless and without transportation. We need food, water, ice and other resources sent directly to Tishabee,” Turner stated. He noted that the community has set up an account to secure resources to assist the victims now but also to be better prepared for future disasters. The Tishabee Community Center will serve as a distribution center for that community.
Many churches throughout the county reported that their congregations are donating, collecting and distributing goods as well as volunteering with clean up and other immediate tasks. Many church leaders reported that they will contribute from the church treasury as well.
Iris Sermon and Hodges Smith, Greene County EMA representatives, informed the courthouse gathering that FEMA was forwarding trucks of water, ice, military meals and tarps to a central location in the county. “The goods we get through FEMA are being delivered to the armory building in Eutaw,” stated Sermon.
She explained that her office does not have the capacity to distribute the goods, communities will have to pick up the resources.
Sermon also appealed to church and other leaders to compile a listing of skilled persons who could voluntarily assist the communities hurt by the storms. “ We need carpenters, plumbers, loggers, cooks, welders, machines and their operators and people willing to help with clean-up tasks,” she said.
Carol Zippert informed the citizens that the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, located in Epes, AL (Sumter County) is set up as a staging area to help assist the rural communities damaged by the tornados in Sumter, Greene and Hale counties in particular. The Federation has a dormitory facility that can house up to 60 individuals and is available for persons needing shelter or volunteers coming in to assist. Other provisions will also be distributed from the Federation site.
Zippert stated that the Black Belt Community Foundation has established a Community Helping Communities Fund soliciting financial donations to assist tornado victims. Greene, Sumter and Hale counties are in the BBCF service area.
As the meeting closed, one citizen noted that the community needs to talk more about counseling. “Our people need a lot of hugs right now. Many people are very traumatized by these recent weather experiences. The children who survived the tornados will need help for a long time,” she stated.

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.

West Alabama hit by high winds, heavy rain and more expected


In the late night hours of April 26 and early morning of April 27, strong tornadic winds and heavy rain pelted West Alabama, downing trees, limbs and power lines.
Many people were without elecricity for several hours at a stretch.
The picture to the right was taken early Wednesday morning on Mesopotamia Street in Eutaw, where the power pole was cracked and the lines were completely down. The tree pictured was literally uprooted by the heavy winds.
According to the National Weather Service, wind up to 100 miles per hour kocked out power in approximately 263,000 homes and businesses throughout Alabama, and more severe weather was expected later in the day on Wednesday.
Thursday, however, is expected to be sunny and clear
On April 22, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) issued the following statement after being notified that Alabama’s request for a major federal disaster declaration was denied by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate on behalf of President Barack Obama. The federal disaster declaration request was made earlier this week by Governor Bentley, following deadly storms and tornadoes that ripped through the state on April 15.
“I am very disappointed in FEMA’s decision to deny federal disaster assistance to Alabama and to the victims of the deadly storms that ripped through our state last week.
While I greatly appreciate the efforts of FEMA officials currently working in Alabama and assessing the extent of the damage, I had strongly hoped that the federal government would offer assistance to our state and local governments and to the storm’s victims as they grapple with their losses.
“This decision places additional burdens and worries upon already hurting families and ignores the enormous costs to our state and local governments that are already struggling. I commend the efforts of the state and local governments as well as faith-based and non-profit community organizations who quickly mobilized to provide assistance to victims following this tragedy.
“My office will continue to work with state and local officials and non-profit organizations to ensure that we are doing all we can to get people the resources and assistance they need to rebuild their communities after these storms.”

Three Coskata officials visit Greene County to discuss plans

Standing L-R are Coskata officials Jeff Burgard, Loula Merkel and Russ Read and Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Authority. Seated are members of the GCIDA Board.

Special to the Democrat:John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Three corporate officials with Coskata Inc., an Illinois based company, were in Greene County last week to discuss their plans for building a 55 million gallon biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol at a site in the Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee.
The three – Jeff Burgard, Vice-President for Engineering and Operations; Loula Merkel, Director of Government Affairs, and Russ Read, Senior Project Manager – visited the proposed 150 acre site in the Crossroads Park and met with the Greene County Industrial Development Authority Board. Coskata has the site under options with the GCIDA and is actively participating in preconstruction planning including some required wetlands mitigation to improve their proposed site.
In discussions with the GCIDA, they expressed appreciation for the assistance and support provided by the Board and the cooperation of local, state and national agencies in advancing their project.
Coskata has received approval of a $250 million loan guarantee by a special program of USDA Rural Development toward financing of their project. The loan guarantee has a number of conditions that Coskata is working to meet to be able to close the loan and secure additional financing needed to build the Boligee facility.
Merkel said, “Completing the loan guarantee is the ‘gating item’ which will allow us to go forward with final design and contracting to build the biorefinery. We are within weeks of closing the loans and then we will spend the rest of this year completing the design and hiring the construction contractor and subcontractors to build major components of the facility.”
Burgard said, “It will take about 18 months to build the refinery and then 3 to 6 months for a start-up phase to get everything operational. Coskata is operating a smaller demonstration plant in Madison, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, where we are testing and perfecting our machinery and process. The flagship plant at Boligee will be on a much larger scale, as much as 50 times as big, and be a model for the type of operating facilities we hope to build around the world.”
Coskata’s cellulosic ethanol project is based on a proprietary anaerobic microorganism that digests syngas, made from high temperature gasification of wood chips, and efficiently produces ethanol as a byproduct. The ethanol must be distilled, separated from other components of the mixture produced, to provide the final product which is mixed with petroleum to make automotive transportation fuel and other products.
The ethanol is a renewal and sustainable product made from wood chips which will help to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil imports. Part of the reason for locating the plant in Greene County is the abundant availability of the wood which serves as the raw material for the project. Coskata converts roughly a ton of wood chips into 100 gallons of ethanol fuel.
Read said, “ Coskata expects to employ about 300 people in the construction phase and 700 in the operational phase, including 125 in the plant and 500 to 600 sourcing and chipping wood for the plant. You will soon be seeing alot of me as plant manager because my job will be to find the people to pull all these components together and have them operating smoothly and sustainably.”
Merkel pointed out that in response to requests from the GCIDA Board, Coskata was setting up a quarterly meeting/conference call to discuss employment and contracting opportunities for local Greene County and surrounding county residents. Read said using local people was part of the company’s sustainability approach.
Danny Cooper, GCIDA Chair said, “We really welcome Coskata to our area and hope for a long term positive relationship for all parties. We are prepared to help and assist Coskata to become strong and creative citizens of Greene County for the long-term.”
Burgard stated, “The nation will need as many as 400 plants like the one in Boligee to meet the President’s goal of tripling the use of renewable fuels from 12 billion to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Coskata does not have the only solution but we hope this flagship plant at Boligee will be a model for licensing and expanding this technology to other areas of the state, country and the world.”

FOGCE Federal Credit Union holds 35th Annual Meeting

Above are board members and members who attended the 35th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Greene County Employee’s (FOGCE) Federal Credit Union at Greenetrack last week. The FOGCE completed its fiscal year on December 31, 2010 with $1,265, 179 in assets with 564 active members,
The credit union made over 40 loans with a value in excess of $300,000 during the past year. Since inception the FOGCE-FCU has made over $8 million in loans to Greene County residents.
Membership is open to all who “live, work or worship in Greene County, Alabama”. The credit union is now making personal loans and car loans on new and used cars. The following were re-elected to serve on the Board of Directors: Gloria I Young, Darlene Robinson and Rodney Pham. James Powell and Debbie Rice were re-elected to serve on the Credit Committee.
For more information about joining: contact: Joyce Pham or Dicillla Holman at the FOGCE office on Wilson Avenue or call 205/372-9025.