published Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Fort Oglethorpe to vote on Sunday sales of alcohol

Now it's in the voters' hands.

The Fort Oglethorpe City Council on Monday night voted 3-2 to put the question of Sunday alcohol sales on the November ballot.

Newly elected City Councilman Clay Kissner put two measures on Monday's agenda. One resolution will let voters decide on sales of beer, wine and liquor by the glass. The companion resolution will let residents vote on package sales of beer and wine.

The election would be Nov. 5.

"I've looked at this from every angle," he said. "Moral, economic."

Kissner cited the recent deannexation by the Georgia General Assembly of 42 acres of prime real estate on Battlefield Parkway from Fort Oglethorpe and into Catoosa County, whose voters in November approved Sunday sales.

"I feel like there's plenty more [deannexations] to come," Kissner said.

Fort Oglethorpe voters turned down Sunday sales in 2011.

"You've got to look at what's changed since then," Kissner said.

Councilmen Kissner and Earl Gray supported Sunday sales, while Louis Hamm and Johnnie "Red" Smith were opposed.

Mayor Lynn Long cast two tie-breaking votes -- his first votes since becoming mayor in 2010 -- to put Sunday sales on the ballot.

Aside from Kissner's comments, there wasn't much discussion.

The issue has been wrenching for city officials.

Catoosa County Commissioner Jeff Long made the motion to ask the Georgia Legislature to deannex the 42 acres from Fort Oglethorpe. Property owner Northwest Georgia Bank wanted the parcel back under jurisdiction of only the county, which allows Sunday sales, so that a developer interested in buying the land would be able to attract restaurants and retailers.

The mayor cited that vote as the reason Jeff Long was fired suddenly at a March 22 City Council meeting as director of public works for Fort Oglethorpe, where he'd worked for 19 years.

Former City Manager Ron Goulart and Police Chief David Eubanks also were dismissed at that meeting.

Councilman Gray made a motion Monday to ask Goulart to come back, but it died for lack of support.

The council chamber was packed with residents, many of whom are mad about the dismissals. They held "RECALL" signs directed at the mayor, Hamm, Smith and Kissner.

Mayor Long announced that from now on, any resident who wants to address the council will need to get listed on the agenda the Thursday before the Monday meeting, and only one spokesperson will speak to represent any one group.

"Last council meeting, it got out of control," he said. "That will not occur anymore."

Kissner took a different tack, telling the audience, "I want to communicate with y'all. My door is always open."

"I appreciate y'all coming out and voicing y'alls' opinion," he said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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