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For the second time in two months, the city of Chattanooga's Beer and Wrecker Board was unable to conduct a meeting last week because of board members not showing up.

The nine-member, voluntary board, which issues beer permits for establishments and special events in the city and can revoke or suspend beer licenses when someone violates the city's beer code, meets just twice a month, and absences can delay an event or keep a business from opening.

"I apologize for the inconvenience to everyone," said Chairman Ron Smith at Thursday's meeting before it was rescheduled.

"This is something we are addressing," he added. "We have members that have legitimate reasons and some we don't understand."

According to city code, there needs to be at least five members present for a quorum and vote.

Smith and board members Dan Mayfield and Christopher Keene were the only ones to attend Thursday's meeting. A special meeting will take place this Thursday to hear new beer applications, but businesses who violated the beer code will have to wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 20.

The board's April 18 meeting was also rescheduled because there wasn't a quorum of members present, and a special meeting took place the next week on April 25 for members to hear new applications. Violations were delayed until the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 2.

City code states the chairman of any board or commission is supposed to notify the mayor if a board member misses three consecutive meetings, or if a member misses more than fifty percent of the meetings in any 12-month period.

There are now two vacancies on the nine-member board and about six people who regularly show up, city staff said.

Board member Jackie Thomas, who represents District 9, missed at least six meetings from October 2018 to March 2019, the last month minutes have been approved.

Thomas did miss three consecutive meetings in November and December of last year and has missed several meetings in the last few months.

In an email, she said she has been absent because of health reasons.

"It is my hope to return soon," Thomas said.

District 8 board member James Hobbs has attended only two meetings since October 2018, records show. Hobbs, who officially resigned last week, said he told city officials about a year ago that he was unable to meet the time commitment needed for meetings after switching jobs.

Hobbs did attend the special meeting in April. He said he had an agreement with the city that he would come when there weren't enough members there for a quorum, but last week, so many members were missing that the board still would have been short one person if Hobbs attended.

City Councilman Anthony Byrd, who represents District 8, said the process of appointing people to city boards needs to change. City council members don't typically attend beer board meetings but Byrd attended a meeting in May because of an issue with a bar in his district.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is responsible for appointing people to boards, and there are 39 boards and commissions, according to the city's website.

"We need to revamp this whole structure," Byrd said after the meeting. "Sitting here, I just found out today that I'm missing a board member. Nobody came to me and told me."

Talking with Byrd after the meeting, two residents of his district said they wished there was a system in place for alternates if one member couldn't be there.

Calandra Smith, a project coordinator with the Hamilton County Coalition, has attended most of the meetings in the past six years to help advise business owners and their employees how to serve alcohol responsibly, she said.

"I will say that may be the second time in six years that has happened," she said about the board rescheduling the April meeting. "Over the past two years, I have noticed there have been very few [members]. I think the idea of having an alternate needs to be put into place and addressed."

Byrd said the city needs to promote vacant spots better, too.

As of July 31, two more terms will expire, including Thomas' spot and Smith's seat in District 6. To apply for a vacant board position, visit chattanooga.gov/boards-commissions.

"I think there's a large pool of people who would be willing but they just don't know," Byrd said. "We have to restructure this whole system."

Contact Allison Shirk Collins at ashirk@timesfreepress.com, @AllissonSCollins or 423-757-6651.

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