Whitwell loosens beer and liquor sales restrictions

Whitwell’s Board shares a laugh with Mike Dillon, Shelley Castle, Sandra Crabtree, Jimmy Nunley and City Manager Lonnie Cleek – Marion County News

Whitwell, Tenn. – The Board of Mayor and Commissioners recently met again with a truncated roster. The City kicked off the Board’s approval of the upcoming budget, which takes effect July 1. The Board also brought the City within compliance with the building code. To mend a former hole in the city zoning language, there was also the first step in repairing the omission. City Manager Lonnie Cleek updated the Board on the sewer service extension.

Cleek explained to the Board that statutorily he was required to present a budget to the Board that was a balanced budget, in the case of the ’23-’24 budget, that required eliminating the pay raise for city workers and not including a Christmas bonus. The Board was reticent to accept that, and Mike Dillon said, “Since we’re going to go ahead and start talking about this, I want to make a motion that we add in there a Christmas bonus. Since we can’t give them a raise, we need to give them at least that bonus.” The Board agreed to pass Dillon’s measure 4-0 as Board member William Adams continues to be called away for work and has not made the City’s meetings since his election in 2022.

The City Recorder Carol Condra also informed the Board of a change on the horizon for the City. “Our {accounting} system will have to change after this audit. The State is requiring that we do something called crosswalk. Basically, it is that all of my general account numbers and everything that I posted will have to be changed to the numbers that the State wants them to be. A lot of the counties probably have already done this, but they have not asked the cities to do it, but the change will take a little bit of time, so I’m to do this on a spreadsheet.Our auditors will ultimately be the ones that submit everything after they check it, and I will try to do it myself just to hold the price down.”

The Board heard an argument for approving a recommendation from the City’s Planning Commission. Mayor Sandra Crabtree said, “We had  some issues previously with the hemp plant operating within the city limits, and no one could really tell what it fell under. So, the Planning Commission has recommended that we amend the definition to include all forms of agriculture, growing the crops in the open, dairy and grazing, hemp processing, and so on for the City of Whitwell.” Crabtree continued, “And also that this would be farming and agricultural uses would be permitted use upon review. So, in the industrial district,  they would have to come in front of the zoning commission and have it reviewed before it passed.” The rest of the Board appeared amenable as the measure passed without dissent.

City Manager Cleek told the Board, “I talked to Croy Engineering, and they’re real close to finishing those with the step-down version that we’re looking for, so I expect to hear from them just any time about moving forward with that project.” Cleek was referring to a follow-up plan from the engineer after an initial proposal’s price tag fell well outside the initial estimate, and the City told the engineer to ‘try again.’ The project to extend sewer service across Highway 28 is funded, in part, by the federal American Relief Plan Act (ARPA), and the funds must be spent by a specific deadline, but Cleek does not foresee a challenge about the deadline.

The Board of Commissioners, which also serves as the City’s Beer Board, adjourned the City meeting and convened the Beer Board to address a couple of issues. City Manager Cleek introduced a request from a local retailer looking to expand its retail offering to include beer. Cleek said, “We were just contacted by the Family Dollar. It’s fairly straightforward with it being a corporation. There are not a lot of background check issues or anything like that to do. They paid their application fee and filled out all the necessary information and diagrams about how Family Dollar would handle beer sales. It’s in front of you now. Basically, that’s it,” leaving the decision to the vote of the Board. The Board approved the request for beer sales at Family Dollar. The Board also approved amending the City’s bylaws regarding liquor and beer sales. After constituents voted to allow liquor sales inside city limits in 2020, the City has been grappling with conflicts in antiquated bylaws referring to aspects of the voters’ will. Current bylaws still limit the hours between which sales can be made of alcohol. With the opening of a liquor store within the city limits, the Board was asked to modify those bylaws to better mirror times in adjacent and nearby towns, expanding the times between which the sales of alcohol would be legal. Cleek pointed out during the Board discussion that given the reason the initiative was even brought up originally was to recapture more of the local sales revenue for the City; it made sense to entertain not chasing prospective buyers to nearby markets. “I will say one thing that kind of goes along with what we were doing in the beginning. By passing this ordinance, it stopped them from going out of our jurisdiction and spending their money, and we do not get the revenue from it. If she’s not allowed to open on Sunday, then they’re going to go back to that process of where they’re not buying in our jurisdiction and weren’t getting revenue from it,” Cleek said. The Board appeared in agreement as they voted to expand the hours.

The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting will be June 8 at 6 p.m. at City Hall at 13671 Highway 28.

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