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.

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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.

Eutaw loses $300,000 sewer grant

At the regualr meeting of the Eutaw City Council on Tuesday, October 12, 2010, Council member Sheila Smith asked  Mayor Raymond Steele about the status of the $300,000 Delta Regional Commission grant to replace the sewer line on Boligee Street.

It has been reported lately that this grant was being taken back by the Delta Regional Commission. In response Steele said that the problems with this grant were all due to issues with the engineers and funding agencies, and were not his fault. He criticized those members of the council who had contacted the Delta Regional Commission asking questions about the withdrawal of the grant.

A report on possible water and sewer projects was presented by representatives of Almond & Associates. The water projects included replacement of the water lines on Mesopotamia Street and the installation of a new 6” water line out to the Eutaw Airport. Sewer improvements included replacement or upgrading of sewer lift stations on the line coming from Boligee and a service line to residents on Lock 7 Road. The total estimated cost for all of these projects was $2,184,655.

Almond & Associates proposes to do the pre-engineering work that would be necessary to apply for USDA Rural Development grants and loan for a fee of $30,000.

Smith questioned the selection of the projects that were submitted, particularly why a water line would be needed at the airport. Council member Ralph Liverman raised the question as to what the city could expect to get for grants to cover the total cost of the project. He said that even with a combination of grants and loans it would be necessary to increase water and sewer rates to pay off any loan. The issue was then tabled for more discussion in a working meeting.

A representative of Waste Management appeared before the council. He reported that his company had done an inventory of all garbage accounts, similar to what city staff had done earlier and that they found that Waster Management was billing the city for 92 accounts that did not exist.

Liverman pointed out that this miscount was costing the city $1,085 a month, or $13,020 a year. The representative pointed out that their contract did not specify a certain amount of accounts and suggested that another inventory be made of the commercial accounts. Liverman said that he felt that an inventory of all garbage accounts should be made at least twice each year.

There was a discussion of bills to be paid. Council members Joe Powell and Hattie Edwards expressed concern over the bills from Greene County for keeping prisoners in the county jail. Last month the city paid over $3,000 to the county and the bill for the current month is $1,800.

Edwards asked for a detailed listing for each month. Police Chief Tommy Summerville reported that the county is considering raising the rate for housing prisoners from $30 per day to $45 per day.

Liverman pointed out that sales tax collections for September were $43,167, which was about the same amount collected in August. Prior to August sales tax collections had been running around $47,000 per month. He raised the question as to whether or not the decrease in collections was due to the closing at Greentrack. He went on to say that if this rate continues the city would have to reduce its sales tax projections about $3,000 to $4,000 per month.

A motion was made by  Liverman to go into an executive session. The motion was approved and the Council went into executive session.

Liverman then asked for a Finance Committee meeting to work on the 2010-2011 Budget. A meeting was set for Monday, October 25, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Powell asked about some problems where the pavement appears to be sinking on Vera Vista Street.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.

City of Eutaw and Southfresh work out new water rate agreement

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, September 28, the Eutaw City Council finally reached an agreement with Southfresh Inc. regarding the water rate the company would pay.

The company will now pay $2,500 per month for water and $500 for sewage. If the city is penalized by ADEM for excess sewage, they will be compensated by Southfresh.

Southfresh was given a 12 month guarantee on these rates.

This matter has been under discussion for several months and both parties seemed relieved that an agreement had been reached.

Also on the agenda were appointments to various city boards including the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the City Medical Board, the Eutaw Planning Commission, the City Industrial Board, the Historical Board and the Cemetery Committee.

Appointments made were John Gillam to the Zoning Board of Adjustments; Faye Tyree to the City Medical Board; and Jerri Glenn to the Historical Commission.

The other board vacancies had either already been filled or were postponed until the next meeting.

The Eutaw City Council approved a resolution changing the Greene County Industrial Development Board to the Greene County Industrial Development Authority. The authority will have more flexibility and power in promoting and supporting industrial development and job creation.

It was agreed that the City of Eutaw would have one appointment to this new structure and that the person selected could not be an elected official.

In other business, the council:

*Discussed the condemnation of the swimming pool at Clarence Thomas Park. It was finally agreed that the bottom of the  pool would be cracked and fill dirt put in. Mayor Raymond Steele suggested that the  pool be turned into a parking lot, a suggestion which Councilmember Sheila Smith objected to. She said that it could easily be made into a basketball court. Councilman Ralph Liverman told her that the city already owned some land near the Eutaw Activity Center that was a better place for a playground. It was suggested that the city contact the county to see if their personnel could assist in the demolition.

Once again the council discussed the bill from Waste Management for garbage pick-up. This matter had previously been discussed and the council seemed in agreement that they were paying for garbage pick-up at vacant houses. “We keep paying these people and we have asked for an adjustment. We are being charged for vacant houses,” said Councilmember Joe L. Powell.

Councilwoman Hattie Edwards suggested that Waste Management should meet with the council. She was advised by the mayor that representatives from that company would  be present at the next city council meeting.

Eutaw City Council approves rezoning of Sumter Veneer site: Residents considering environmental lawsuit

By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

 At its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to approve a zoning change ordinance from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry) for Elam Properties to develop a metal and tire recycling yard on the former site of Sumter Veneer on O’Neal Street in Eutaw Council members Hattie Edwards, Ralph Liverman, David Spencer and Sheila H. Smith voted in favor of the ordinance. Mayor Raymond Steele and Councilman Joe L. Powell voted against. Before the vote was taken, the Council held an executive session to discuss the wording of the ordinance. City Attorney Mike Smith said the closed session was held because of “possible potential litigation.”

The residents living in the area surrounding the proposed industrial site have opposed the City’s adoption of the zoning change. In the public comment period many voiced their dissatisfaction with the majority of the City Council who voted in favor of the change.

Linda Davis, a neighboring resident said, “Our position on this project has not changed. We are going to take other steps to block this rezoning. We do not want this harmful project in our community. We plan to bring in an environmentalist and environmental organizations to help us fight this project legally and any other way we can.”Thomas Morris, another resident said, “This City Council does not listen to us. You keep reminding me of the 1960’s, when the people had no choice but to say ‘yes’ and agree to things, even if they didn’t like them. Now we should be able to say ‘no’ and you public officials should listen to us.“All we want is peace and quiet –  but by bringing this industry – you are trying to finish us off. You are not listening. You do not care about us.”

Rosie Carpenter, a community leader for whom a subdivision adjoining the industrial site is named, said, “You have disregarded your own zoning board in making this decision which opens up the whole city to these harmful industries. We do not want this change. And we do not appreciate your making this change in our community when you would not want this same industry in your neighborhood of the city.”

Ron Edwards another resident said, “We do not want this in our community. Why don’t you find a more suitable location somewhere else in the county which will not be close to residential areas.”

Shantrelle Glenn, a Eutaw resident who regularly attends the City Council meetings, defended the project saying, “This project is not a junkyard. It is a recycling center. This will help us clean up abandoned cars and tires in the city and the county.”

The Council members who voted for the project have defended it in prior meetings to vote on the ordinance.

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

* Postponed a decision on a new water rate schedule for Southfresh Catfish Processing until they have a chance to review and evaluate a proposal from the company.

  *Postponed consideration of a resolution supporting re-organization of the Greene County Industrial Board to an Industrial Authority pending review of the resolution by the attorneys.

  * Approved payment of bills with the exception of the garbage collection invoice from Waste Management, pending a comparison of the bill with the actual number of households provided with service. Mayor Steele announced that Waste Management would collect large items, e.g., appliances, furniture, only the first week of each month; and that Waste Management would collect household garbage on a new schedule of only three days a week on Tuesday-Thursdays. A fuller notice will be given to residents by mail and newspaper ads.

*The Mayor was given permission to seek bids for re-roofing the City Hall and closing Well No. 2 which is mandated by ADEM, a state agency.

 *Heard concerns from Angela Gray concerning a tree and a ditch adjoining her house; Shirley Watson complained about flooding on Highway 43; and Priscilla Turner, a 911 dispatcher, asked the Council about support for the emergency services program which is running out of funds and may soon need to lay off half of its workers.

 * Agreed to hold a Finance Committee meeting in the next two weeks to develop an operating budget for the upcoming  fiscal year.

Residents dispute Eutaw Council decision to rezone Sumter Veneer site for new industry

At Tuesday’s Eutaw City Council meeting, the Council voted 3 – 1 to  support a new ordinance to change the zoning of the former Sumter Veneer site from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry) to accommodate Elam Properties that wants to use the site for a scrap metal and tire recycling business.

Residents of the area were upset with the Council’s decision and voiced their opposition during the public comment period.

The Council overrode the decision of its Planning and Zoning Commission to deny the zoning variance. Council members: Sheila H. Smith, Hattie Edwards and Ralph Liverman voted for the motion introducing the ordinance change. Councilman Joe Lee Powell voted against the motion. Councilman David Spencer was absent. Mayor Raymond Steele also opposed the zoning change.

A final vote on the ordinance changing zoning will be held at the next Eutaw City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 24, 2010.

Linda Davis a resident of the area adjoining the plant said the Council was unconcerned about the residents living in the area. “We will be subjected to constant noise, dust and dirt from the operations which will only bring a few new jobs to the city.”

Rosie Carpenter asked the Council, “Why do you want to put this in our community? Why do you put harmful things in the Black community? Why don’t you put this in the white community or somewhere out of town where it will not affect people.” Mrs. Carpenter also pointed out that Sheila Smith had objected to the Catholic Church opening an after-school program for mostly Black children in a building across from her house.

Ronald Edwards, a resident of Rosie Carpenter Haven, a subdivision of new single family homes that back up to the Sumter Veneer property, said, “This will take down the value of our new homes and no one else will want to build homes in the city for fear that a junkyard will be built next to them.” Read more of this post