The Buchanan City Council voted to approve the referendum during their regular meeting on Jan. 8. The question will be added to the ballot for a special election which already had been scheduled to fill the position of mayor, which has been vacant since the Aug. 17, 2012, death of Mayor Benjamin S. “Buster” Biggers.
The proposed referendum would permit restaurants to sell alcohol by the drink on Sundays, as well as allow package sales of beer. The city already permits sale of liquor by the drink at authorized businesses, except on Sunday.
The referendum was proposed by Haralson County businessman Gregory Poteet, who noted that the issue would not affect him personally, since his convenience store is located outside the Buchanan city limits. However, he said allowing Sunday sales would be in the economic interest of the city, making it competitive with nearby cities that already do so.
“We have the chance to maybe have some of the restaurants come to our area, and we don’t have a shot if we’re not at least going to be competitive with the cities around us,” Poteet said.
In discussing the issue, the council members said that it should be up to the voters of the city to decide the matter, but noted that, if passed, the measure may not only encourage major chain restaurants to locate in the area, but also improve retail trade generally downtown.
In the end, council members Patricia Warren, Patty Hutcheson and Donald Rainey voted in favor of adding the referendum; Mayor Pro Tem Kenny Hughes, an employee of Atlanta Beverage Company, abstained from casting a vote.
The main purpose of the March 19 election is to fill the position of mayor. Hughes has been serving as acting mayor since Biggers’ death and during the meeting he was re-appointed by other council members for another year-long term as mayor pro tem.
No one has yet officially announced their candidacy for the office, qualification for which begins Feb. 13 and ends at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 15. Candidates will be required to pay a $120 filing fee. Non-registered voters have until Feb. 19 to do so, and early voting will be available between March 11 and March 15. Polls will be open on March 19, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
In other business, Police Chief Tracy Lambert told council members he would be meeting with school officials to review safety response plans following the events last month in Sandy Hook, Conn. He said that since that incident, officers had been taking turns to maintain a presence at the schools and reported that action had proved highly popular with parents and school officials.
City Clerk Karen King asked and received council members’ permission to pay the library $5,000 as part of the facility’s annual budget. Another $5,000 had tentatively been approved for the library pending incoming revenues, and the council said a budget amendment to provide those funds would be scheduled at a future meeting.
Also, King told the council that under new mandates set by the Federal Highway Administration, all the city street signs and traffic signs would have to be replaced so as to meet new guidelines on making the signs more reflective and more easily read in low light.
Council members discussed the cost of replacing the signs by the 2015 deadline, which Public Works Director Dean Tanner said may exceed $1,000, depending on how they were sourced – whether from the county sign shop, or by signs made by prisoners within the Georgia Corrections system.
King noted that the federal government had told the city that if the deadline was not met, the city risked losing all types of federal funding.