City-approved fundraiser gets glowing praise and harsh criticism at South Pittsburg board meeting

City-approved fundraiser gets glowing praise and harsh criticism at South Pittsburg board meeting

May 20th, 2019 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Several months ago, the South Pittsburg City Commission approved the local Rotary Club's request host the Sequatchie Valley Brewfest on a one-block stretch of Cedar Avenue.

The charity event took place on May 11 and included beer tasting from area breweries and food from local cooking teams.

At the board's May meeting, Brewfest organizer Norm Flake thanked the board for allowing it to happen.

"We were able to showcase this beautiful town and this beautiful facility [the Princess Theater]," he said. "A lot of people that came in from out of town just loved the downtown atmosphere and loved this place. They're looking to come back."

Another organizer, Kathie Tierney, the South Pittsburg Rotary Club's treasurer, said the event was "tremendous."

"We actually raised just under $10,000, and all that money will be going to local children's' charities through the school food program," she told the board.

But not everyone was happy the event took place on city property.

Pastor Robert Caudill of South Pittsburg's Calvary Baptist Church said he wanted to express his concern about some recent events in the town, like the Sequatchie Valley Brewfest.

"I think most everybody comes here — they move into small town USA to get away from the things that the big city has," he said. "When you move here, you get away from drugs and alcohol and gangs and violence and some of the things that's wrong in places like Chattanooga and Memphis and Nashville and those kinds of places."

Caudill said South Pittsburg is moving in the wrong direction.

"Money is great," he said. "Money is good, but if you have to get money doing something that's against the principles of God, I'm going to tell you, that money is not going to do you any good."

Caudill said the city shouldn't promote events that allow alcohol and added that there was a "pot house" in front of the South Pittsburg Elementary School.

In fact, a cannabidiol, or CBD, business recently opened near the school, which is completely legal by state law.

"It's not a pot house," one meeting attendee shouted at Caudill.

At that point, Mayor Virgil Holder banged his gavel twice and then told that person to "shut up."

"I know where I stand," Caudill said. "I think it's wrong — it's a sin — to drink alcohol. It's a sin to use drugs. I know we've got some good Christian people on the city council. I don't see how we can go to church on Sunday morning and praise God and say we're going to be Christians and have Christian values, and go out and buy alcohol and drink and even buy pot or pot products or whatever else you want to call it."

Resident Scott Collier said he was very proud about the direction in which the city was going.

"I very much like the Brewfest," he said. "I like all the stuff we're doing. I disagree totally with what this guy [Caudill] said. I came here to hear about the city's business. If I want to hear a sermon, you all go to church. That's what it's for. I think we're here to talk about the city and city business."

Marty Deakins, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, said he wanted to express his "disapproval and disagreement" with the Brewfest, too.

"We've got plenty of places to buy alcoholic beverages in this county, I'm sorry to say," he said. "We don't need this Brewfest. If it's happening to attract people from other areas, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't say very good things about our community. I think it will attract the wrong kind of people."

Later in the meeting, City Administrator Gene Vess announced that the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera String and Wind Ensemble is scheduled to perform at the Princess Theater on May 25.

The event is being hosted by the South Pittsburg Historical Preservation Society.

The non-profit organizers requested the board approve a private reception that would include wine and hors d'oeuvres after the event.

A motion to approve the request by Commissioner Jimmy Haley failed by a 2-2 vote with Commissioner Ronnie Lancaster and Holder voting against the measure.

Commissioner Samantha Rector, who could've cast the deciding vote, left the meeting early.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com


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