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Congresswoman Terri Sewell visits for tour, town hall meeting

U.S. Representative Terri Sewell visited Demopolis Tuesday to tour the brickyard to view drainage improvements and to host a town hall meeting.

Mike Baker, project manager for the city’s Public Works Department, gave Sewell a presentation of the brickyard project, which included clearing the area of trees and stumps, cleaning the existing ditch of underbrush and debris, widening the ditch and sloping the sides to prevent the system from overflowing during heavy rain.

“Slowly, when it opened up, it turned out to be a very viable project for the area which holds a lot of water,” Baker said.

The project also cleared the drainage system of any areas that held stagnant water, which Baker said was a health hazard.

Sewell helped secure much of the $500,000 in grant funding for the project, which had a total cost of $600,000. Sewell also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in acquiring the necessary permits to complete the project.

Sewell said the brickyard project promotes better public health and economic development.

“I know that, for years, the people in that area have been really suffering from lack of proper infrastructure, and what the drainage will do is not only fix the current problem with the flow of water and sewage through that area, but it also will promote better economic opportunities for others. Economic development starts with basic infrastructure, and until we improve our basic infrastructure, we can’t really attract other industries to our area,” she said.

The brickyard project was completed in early 2018. The project combined the efforts of the Corps of Engineers, Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, the City of Demopolis and Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.

Sewell later hosted a town hall at the Theo Ratliff Activity Center.

Sewell addressed efforts to pass a federal budget for fiscal year 2019. She said Congress is currently oper- ating on a continuing res- olution, meaning that they are still under 2018’s budget until a new one is passed. Fiscal year 2019 began on Oct. 1. She also said the new budget should prioritize vet- erans benefits and defense.

When discussing education, Sewell mentioned two amendments she introduced in the Higher Education Act Reauthorization Bill, one of which would support work

force development at two- year institutions and another would allow private historically black colleges and universities to temporarily defer payment of loans to the Department of Education while focusing on increasing enrollment. The reauthorization has yet to pass.

Sewell also discussed amendments she added to the renewal of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, which included requiring dual inspections for foreign catfish farmers and incentives for new farmers. She said she voted “no” on a recent reauthorization of the act because the House of Representatives proposed a $100 billion cut to food nutrition programs. The reauthorization has yet to pass.

Sewell concluded her speech by encouraging attendees to vote in the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election.

During questions from the audience, Sewell discussed the construction of a Love’s Travel Stop in Eutaw. She said the $12 million truck stop would add 43 new jobs and “a lot of other economic opportunity.” She also addressed concerns from an audience member about Teamsters Union cutting retirement funds, which she assured she would vote to maintain pension funds for Teamsters.

“I have time and time again voted with the people, the union and made sure that we got the funding,” she said.

Sewell’s “Congress in Your Community” tour included town halls in Greene, Hale, Marengo, Choctaw and Clarke counties.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, October 17 issue of the Demopolis Times.)