Councilman Paul Ice voted against the measure.
City Clerk Aimee Abernathy said the city put out a mailer regarding the question of package sales to 129 city residents. Of the responses, there were 26 “no” votes and 29 “yes” votes, she said.
Abernathy presented council member’s with the ordinance, which is in compliance with the city’s proposed intergovernmental agreement with Cherokee County.
She said distilled spirits, Sunday sales and serving in restaurants is “not an option” under the ordinance.
“It’s just package and retail and beer and wine,” Abernathy said.
Abernathy also said that to apply the ordinance to specific stores and locations within the city, the council would also have to vote to rezone businesses within a certain distance of residences.
One councilmember expressed concern as to whether existing stores could have
sales under the ordinance, noting the proximity of the stores within the city to residences and Reinhardt University.
“I don’t want us to say ‘yes’ tonight and spend money on attorney fees… then come to find out we can’t do it and have just wasted a bunch of money,” said Councilmember Mary Helen Lamb.
“We do have to amend our zoning ordinances to allow for these two (stores),” Abernathy said, referencing the two store owners who have expressed a desire for package sales—representatives for the Citgo gas station at 7291 Reinhardt College Parkway and the Super Thrift store at 6839 Reinhardt College Parkway.
“We would have to advertise for that before we could go forward,” Abernathy said. “There’s a few processes we would have to go through… it’s not just saying ‘yes’ and then these people can buy beer and wine licenses.”
The city will also benefit financially from the sales, including approximately $300 for each application fee and anywhere from $1,200 to $1,800 for annual license fees, as well as taxation fees for the wholesaler determined by the state.
“As the council moves forward, these prices will be determined,” Abernathy said.
Abernathy said licensing issues may or may not be handled administratively through the city or through the Cherokee County Marshall’s Office.
“That’s something we’ll have to work out as we are working out the intergovernmental agreement,” City Attorney Dana Martin said.
Four people addressed the council regarding their stance on alcohol sales during the public input portion of the meeting.
Billy Joe Parker, a former Marine Corpsman who said he is not a Waleska resident, said he came to the meeting after reading in the Tribune that the council was considering the measure.
He provided the council with a packet of information including drunk driving statistics and two photographs of young people in Cherokee County who were allegedly killed by drunk drivers.
“Alcohol goes beyond the city limits,” Parker said. “Alcohol is a roadside bomb… What you sell in Waleska will kill 100 miles away.”
However, the other three speakers were in favor of the ordinance.
Larry Speight, a resident and former owner of the now-closed Loose Lip Larry’s restaurant, said he felt the city needed to change.
“I strongly feel that Waleska should make a small change if they can approve beer (sales),” he said. “One for the businesses here, and another for the people who may want to consume beer.”
James “Skip” Spears, owner of the property where Citgo operates, said his leasee A.B. Bhayani, who also attended the meeting but did not speak, would benefit from beer and wine sales.
“I’ve seen Waleska not change much over the years,” Spears said. “But some change is good and (alcohol sales) can be controlled.”
Thomas Kaiser also encouraged the council to move forward with the measure.
“I think the revenue for Waleska would be great,” Kaiser said. “As these others were saying, if you’re not going to buy it here, you’re going to buy it somewhere else.”
Ice said he opposed the measure mostly because of each store’s proximity to Reinhardt University.
“I would safely guess that at least 60 percent of the students at Reinhardt are under the legal drinking age,” Ice said in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t think the revenue would be worth the problems.”
Abernathy said the city will advertise, as legally required, for 15 days for a public hearing at their September meeting to receive input regarding the zoning changes required for local businesses to sell alcohol.
She said the business will be able to apply after two readings of their application, so it will likely be late October before the stores will be able to have package sales.
In other business, the council unanimously approved an audit service proposal from Welch, Walker and Associates of Ellijay not to exceed $15,000. The two other bids offered were from R. L. Jennings at $18,000 plus $2,500 in fees and Williamson C.P.A.’s at $8,800.
Abernathy said the lowest bidder reported having no experience dealing with a municipality with water services, which Waleska does maintain, and received no recommendations of their services from other city officials she contacted.
The board also voted unanimously to table a vote on contracting an outside business for tank inspections pending bid requests from other companies.
The current bid by Utility Services to maintain the city’s three tanks will cost the city $32,321.12. The council will vote on the matter during its Aug. 20 meeting.
Also, Councilmember Melissa Fournier was sworn in at the beginning of the council’s regular meeting.
Abernathy also updated council members regarding the Bird Mountain water tank, which was offered to the county fire services for their use. She said they were unable to use the tank for their purposes because of unspecified reasons. Abernathy said the city is looking into selling the tank for scrap metal.
The council also voted unanimously to recognize Aug. 21 as National Senior Citizens Day, with Mayor Doris Jones saying she will be taking donations during next month’s meeting for the Volunteer Aging Council.