By Barry H. Hendrix

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 11, 2004

Managing Editor

The Eutaw City Council voted Tuesday to continue to provide minor maintenance for the water system at the Branch Heights Housing Authority just south of the city limits.

The housing authority had recently lost its certified operator, and Mayor Raymond Steele told the council that he had given permission for the city’s operator, Joel Henderson, to provide maintenance and meter readings on a contract basis.

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“We need to be good neighbors to that community,” Steele said.

Built by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Branch Heights is part of an ongoing annexation controversy pitting the mayor against the council and some city residents. In a non-jury trial that began Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Steele is being sued by Sheila Hann over the attempted annexation of areas thta would change the racial population of Eutaw.

Council member Hattie Edwards was in favor of continuing to help Branch Heights, and she made a motion that Henderson continue to provide assistance and that the mayor and city attorney Mike Smith negotiate a permanent agreement.

Council member Lou Bostick questioned what revenue the city would receive from such an arrangement.

Council member Joe Sanders was concerned about taking on the responsibility of another water system. “We’re stretched,” he said.

The council ultimately voted in favor of the negotiating the contract over the objection of Bostick.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, a public meeting has been set for 6 p.m. March 18 at the Eutaw Activity Center concerning the Vera Vista sewer project. The city has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Officials from ADEM will be on hand at the hearing to brief citizens on the project. Steele said the city has yet to receive money from the grant due to paperwork.