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

By John Zippert,

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.


VP Joe Biden welcomes Black elected officials

Vice President Joe Biden (center) is pictured with mayors during a Black History Month reception at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele is shown to far right. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann).

Vice President Joseph Biden and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed over 120 elected African American officials and their guests to their official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory on February 15, 2011 in honor of Black History Month.
The Vice President and his wife Dr. Jill Biden welcomed several distinguished members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mayors, State Legislators, county officials and former elected leaders such as Wellington Webb, who served three terms as Mayor of Denver, Colorado and Raymond Steele, Mayor of Eutaw, AL.
“I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Vice President and other mayors and public officials at his Black History Program. Each mayor had the opportunity to shake hands and speak with the vice president. We also had the opportunity to meet with his staff members.
“This was a great chance for me to highlight the City of Eutaw and give more exposure to our small town. I expect that we will see some direct and indirect benefits from these contacts with important public officials in the future,” said Steele
Steele said that besides himself there were two other Black mayors from Alabama: Helene Bell, Mayor of Haynesville and Ron Davis of Pritchard.
Vice President Biden talked about the importance of Black History Month.
He reflected on everything from his recent meeting with young pre-teen African American football players at Ft. Campbell (who are the offspring of deployed Afghanistan and Iraq military warriors) and on his train ride with President-elect Barack H. Obama in January 2009.
In prepared remarks Vice President Biden alluded to the fact that if the Republican controlled House of Representatives has its way, the next 18 months will be a “rough ride” and that they seek to cut many programs that are critical to Mayors, state and county officials nationwide who represent struggling communities, which are mostly of color.
The Vice President opened his substantive remarks for the evening by talking about the importance of community colleges, particularly to the sustainability of upwardly mobile, educated blacks in America. He pointed out that his longtime friend from Wilmington, Delaware, Mayor James Baker (who was in attendance at the reception) stood side by side with him on the train platform at Wilmington station in 1968 as they watched the city of Wilmington lay in ruins from the riots in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death. He reflected movingly on how some 40 years later, he stood on that same platform in Wilmington, Delaware waiting to board a train that carried in its cars the newly elected Black President of the United States, Barack H. Obama. Biden said that he had a moment standing at that station where he remembered the riots and said to himself, “We may have a lot more to do, but damn, we’ve come a long way.”
The Vice President closed his remarks by saying that “The best way to celebrate history is to make it”. He offered pointed tribute to the strength of the Black men and women who were standing in the room, and who work tirelessly for their communities. And he also remembered those who had come before. He talked about Frederick Douglass and the freed black slaves who in 1862 became union soldiers, and how out of 35,000 who died during the Civil War, 16 of that number were honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor. He talked about how his first case as public defender was in representing two Black Panthers who were accused of causing the riots in 1968.
The Vice President talked about the sacrifices of all of those who had come before this present generation of accomplished African Americans. “Sometimes the people most burdened in life, have to add more burdens upon themselves so that others can have their burdens lifted from them.” Very fitting words on a day when Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) received from President Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his dedication and sacrifice in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Shelby focuses on national debt at Town Hall meeting in Eutaw

Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele introduces Senator Richard Shelby at Eutaw Town Hall meeting

Between 15 and 20 people gathered at the Eutaw City Hall on Saturday, February 12th to listen to and question U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
The main focus of Shelby’s message was the debt that the United States had incurred.
According to Shelby, in 1990, the national debt was $3.206 trillion. By 2010, the debt had soared to $13.5 trillion and was projected to reach $24.055 trillion by 2021.
“We are still a wealthy country,” he said. “We produce more manufactured goods and more food and fiber than any other country. Our greatest challenge is our debt. It affects our economy. It will limit our options as to infrastructure and industrial development. We need a strong economic base to survive.”
According to Shelby, the budget for this year is three trillion, three hundred billion dollars. He said the United States will have to borrow at least 40% of this from the Chinese.
He also talked about education and the percentage of dropouts. “Our prisons are full of high school dropouts,” he said.
Several people in the audience spoke disparagingly about the proposed changes to the health care program. Shelby replied that the main thing to consider was whether or not the country could afford the plans. “I am going to be the top Senator on the Health Committee and I am going to try and prevent the funding,” he said.
“What we in Congress need to do,” said Shelby. “is to look at every program we have created in the past 50 years and see if we need them. We need to have hearings and dig deeply into these programs.”
Other questions asked included additional funding for Coskata, the future of the U. S Post Office and immigration.
Shelby addressed each question and said the additional funding would be hard to get; that the future of the post office did not look too bright for the smaller units and that the United States is having to go overseas to find qualified people for many of our more technical jobs. “I think we should drain the world of talent,” he said, speaking of how the German immigrants during World War II helped push the United States ahead in various technical fields.
He also spoke about bringing about $700 million in funding to various projects at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, but said the county and city would have to go to the state government for more funding for highway projects.
Shelby said the current administration was very short-sighted when it came to off-shore drilling and that the drilling could be done safely.
“Will we have accidents – yes,” he said, but indicated that the pros on drilling far offset the negatives.