South Pittsburg announces new text service

Local restaurant calls foul on policies regarding alcohol during NCF

From left: City Manager Gene Vess, Commissioner Cameron Moss, Vice Mayor Matt Stone, Mayor Samantha Rector, Attorney Billy Gouger, Commissioners Allison Buchanan and Cheryl Kellermann

South Pittsburg, Tenn. – South Pittsburg’s Board of Mayor and Commissioners learned some of the details on the City’s new text service portal, which allows two-way communication between the City Hall and residents. Board members were updated on the status of the City’s audit following the passing of the accountant working on it. Additionally, one restaurant operator decried their establishment was unfairly singled out for beer and alcohol questions during the recent Cornbread Festival.

Mayor Samantha Rector highlighted a number of events that had taken place in the City, “I just have a couple of things I want to thank everyone. We’ve had a busy past couple of weeks. We had National Cornbread Festival when we had an attendance of 20,586 in our town. We’ve had the Market in the ‘Burg, and we’ve also had the Unity Fest, put on by Mount Bethlehem this past Sunday. So busy, busy. Lots of things going on in South Pittsburg. We want to thank everyone for volunteering.”

Rector also nominated Jarvis Wooten to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission, which was unanimously approved by the Commission.  Commissioner Cheryl Kellermann mentioned that the City was already addressing a comment about the speed humps on Old Jasper Road being too small and ineffective. Prompted by a question from Kellermann, City Manager Gene Vess said regarding the upcoming Moore Park upgrades, “The equipment has been ordered and will be here. But,  due to the second part of the grant, we can’t begin the installation until after July 1, because the installation is in next {fiscal} year’s part of the three-year grant.”

Commissioner Allison Buchanan said, “Market in the Burg went well. I want to thank Melissa Tucker and Kelly Graham again for putting that on and managing that. For June, we’re going to move that to South Cedar in front of the stage (between 4th and 5th Street) to connect to Jeeping in the Burg. We’re going to work together and just move our market to your event just for that one month, June. Then we’re going to make a contribution, as a City, to your Christmas for Kids.” Buchanan referred to the Police Department’s program for needy families around Christmas.

Commissioner Cameron Moss inquired about possibly getting the alley road running along the Armory fixed, given there were some significant ones along the way. That prompted a surprising response from Vess. “There’s a long story behind that Armory alley behind the church and railroad tracks. We were going to work on those one time before and were asked not to work on them, because when kids are coming out of school, they’d fly down that alley, and at least with the potholes there, they know they have to slow down. I was actually in the process of fixing those potholes and was asked not to.” With a little Commission cross-talk, the solution appears to be to fix the potholes and reposition some of the speed humps that are going to be replaced in the alley.

Vess also announced that the City is ready to roll out its text notification system. For text updates from the City, residents can text “SOUTHPITTSBURG”(case sensitive) to 91896. Users will receive a notification acknowledging they are subscribed and that “message and data rates may apply.” Additionally, residents can text “Report” to 423-403-3303 to be prompted through questions to get their request to the correct department. Rudimentary issues like brush pickup or garbage pick up were some of the examples used. Further details and graphics can be found on the City’s website at

Vess also reminded the Commission that the accountant that had started the City’s audit review passed away during the audit. Vess went on to say, “That particular company reached out to us and said that they were no longer interested in providing the audit for the City and the utilities combined together that they wanted to separate them out. So we did put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) and sent it out to four or five auditing companies, and we only received back one proposal.” Vess added, “It’s a firm called Waycaster. The ladies that are working for Waycaster are very familiar with our process. They’re the ones that have been doing our audits basically for the last several years anyway. So, I’m making a recommendation tonight to the Board that we hire Waycaster.” Vess was prompted for information on the cost, to which he answered, “The annual fee is $8,500 for the audit. That excludes the utility company, but for this year there’s an additional $1,500. That’s because the state comptroller’s office is requiring that all cities do a thing called crosswalk. That is that every line item has to be inputted and put into the website for the state comptroller’s office. This firm will also do it at a cost of $1,500. So the total cost for this first year would end up being $10,000.” Seeing little option given the limited response, the Board voted to hire Waycaster without dissent.

Police Chief Wayne Jordan requested and received permission for the periodic closing of South Cedar Avenue near the high school to complete various tasks associated with the walking bridge, including welding and painting. Parks and Recreation Director Cody Hennegar announced that the department is close to completing the installation of a disc golf course at Lloyd Park and encouraged residents to visit. There will be another summer camp for kids this coming summer. The Department is working toward what amounts to a supply closet where kids can check out equipment with some yet-to-be-confirmed collateral to be left to ensure the return of the equipment. Recently announced managers of the Princess Theatre, Alexis and Terran Gilbert, announced that they have invested $25,000 into the Princess and expected the City to reap benefits. Terran Gilbert said, “By the end of this month, the City will officially be making some money from our leadership as management. By the end of this month, the City will have some money in their pocket.”

The Commission passed a resolution to bring the Cost-of-Living-Adjustment benefits in line with the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) standards. The final “clean up” of the current annual budget was addressed with a rudimentary budget amendment, just putting some allocations in the correct line item before the City closes its fiscal year ending June 30. To go with that, the Commission approved the upcoming annual budget beginning July 1. In concert with Tennessee law, the City adopted the 2018 International Building Code excluding automatic sprinkler systems for one and two-family dwellings, to keep the building code ‘within the last five years.’

A local restaurant operator brought a complaint to the Cty regarding his treatment by the City during the National Cornbread Festival. A dispute about beer being served in open-top, disposable cups caused a citation from the City, according to the owner. He went so far as to say he was asked to serve the beer that way several years ago. He also brought up the inequity of the regulations and seemed insulted by the City’s relatively recent “non-profit” beer permit. “And all we ask is, if we can’t do it, then fine. But let’s be fair, across the board, the whole city, US Stove and all the other things. My goodness, we had one event, and you all sat a beer cart from Chattanooga across the street from me selling beer on the street. Where did I gain revenue? I’ve been here for 17 years.” Mayor Rector clarified, “The Cornbread Festival, during operating hours in the daytime, is not intended to have alcohol walking around in open cups. Liquor, for sure. That’s against state law. A lady had a liquor drink spilled on her at the Cornbread Festival, period.”

Vice Mayor Matt Stone interjected, “So one of the things I think you need some clarification on is the special event you brought up. You pointed the finger at other people. We have a special beer permit that you have to get that those people came in and applied and got those permits that allowed them to do that. And Billy can help you understand that.”

Attorney Billy Gouger gave some insight on the law itself, saying, “The drinking or consuming alcohol in public is the same law no matter what type of license or permits you have, whether it’s a special event or whether  it’s a regular retail license, like what you guys have. There is a special law that was passed during COVID that allows alcohol to be sold by a license holder to go. The only requirement for that is it has to be sealed when it leaves the establishment. Now, what that person does with that container once they leave the establishment is beyond the control of the establishment. They have no liability. If they walk outside their door and open it and drink it in public, that’s not on {seller}.”

The next regularly scheduled monthly is June 13 at 6 p.m. at the Senior Activity Center at 317 Elm Avenue.

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