By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
At its regular meeting Tuesday night October 26, 2010, the Eutaw City Council discussed several proposals to improve the city’s water and sewer system.
In our October 13, 2010 edition, the Greene County Democrat reported that the city had lost a major grant from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), made in 2003, for the improvement of the sewer system on Boligee street.
Our reporting was based on interviews with members of the City Council who expressed concern that the DRA and the USDA Rural Development (manager of the project) would likely withdraw and reallocate the grant funds because they were not utilized for the project on a timely basis.
Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw contacted the Democrat to complain that our coverage “was incorrect and that the grant had never been officially withdrawn.” The Mayor blamed the engineering firm, DRA and USDA for delays and said he was still working to secure this grant of $297,500 for the Boligee Street repairs.
In the public comment period of last night’s meeting, the Democrat’s reporter asked the Mayor to comment on the status of the project. Mayor Steele said, “This is still an active project and the funds have not been withdrawn.” The Mayor went on to say that he had been contacted by Senator Richard Shelby’s office and that they offered to convene a meeting of all parties including DRA, USDA and the city to get the project back on track. When asked if this meeting had been scheduled, the mayor responded that he was working on getting it set up.
After the meeting in an interview with city council members Hattie Edwards and Sheila Hann, this reporter was told that Edwards had attended a regional planning training meeting in Point Clear, Alabama last week. At the meeting, she approached officials from DRA, USDA and Senator Shelby’s office on the problem of the Boligee Street sewer grant. Edwards and Hann felt her contacts had resulted in the call to the Mayor.
Hann said, ‘It is urgent that the Mayor act to save the grant or the city will lose it.” Edwards indicated that she will be contacting the Mayor to push him to set up the meeting so the grant can go forward.
Action on other projects
After a long discussion, the City Council approved the expenditure of $30,000 to Almond and Associates Engineers of Tuscaloosa for engineering design work required to make applications to USDA Rural Development for a $2.3 million loan and grant package for various improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems. Among the water projects included are improvements of the water line on Highway 14 (Mesopotamia Street); a 6 inch water line extension on Highway 14 to the Airport and Lock 7 Road; an upgrade of water meters and automatic meter readings in the City.
Among the sewage improvements are a sewer expansion from the Airport to the Lagoon and rehabilitation of pumping stations connecting the sewage lines between the lagoon and the Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee.
Some of the Council members felt that the sewage and water lines in the center of the city radiating from the Courthouse Square should have priority over service to sparsely populated areas on Lock 7 Road.
The services to the Airport would reach both the new City Park and could be extended to Lock 7 Road if funding permits.
Councilwoman Hann wanted a meeting with USDA Rural Development officials to explain the possibilities of funding before incurring engineering expenses but she was overridden by the rest of the Council.
The Council’s approval of the Almond and Associates request means that the city will have detailed design drawings to submit in future proposal requests to USDA and other Federal and state agencies for water and sewer improvements.
The Mayor said the total improvements in the city’s water and sewer system could cost $6 to 10 million and would likely result in an increase in rates to pay back the loan funds involved.
In other actions:
• The City Council approved paying $17,263 of an August bill of $18,206 for residential garbage collection, based on the city’s count of active garbage carts. Payment of this bill had been delayed pending a meeting with Waste Management. The meeting was inconclusive and the city’s lower payment of the bill may trigger more discussion and negotiations with the company to lower payments for garbage collection.
• Approved travel for police officer Beck.
• Heard continuing complaints of street repairs needed on Vera Vista and Brown avenues.
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