Oneonta approves funds for possible wet/dry vote

In its latest session, the Oneonta City Council voted to allocate $5,000 to cover costs of a proposed election on legalizing alcohol sales within the city. The council has yet to set any date for the discussed election, which appears at the moment in violation of existing state law.

The request followed city manager Ed Lowe’s distribution of a 1988 state attorney general’s opinion on so-called “TVA funds.” Lowe presented that opinion in support of the argument that Blount County would not lose the almost $400,000 it receives from TVA as a “dry” county, should Oneonta vote to legalize alcohol sales. In later discussion with town attorney Alex Smith, The Blount Countian verified that attorney’s general opinions are not “settled law” but do provide the latest guidance unless or until other legal decisions exist.

Blount County District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert had addressed the council as it began its session. Calvert indicated his personal preference that the county not legalize alcohol sales but endorsed the position that Oneonta voters should have the same right to make that decision as most other Alabama cities of its size have.

Calvert also appeared to make reference to a previous county commission call for would-be petitioners to be required to sign petitions in limited governmental facilities. Calvert noted he had heard from some indicating they understood their names appeared on petitions they did not sign and that the names of deceased may have also appeared on similar petitions. He explained he has retreated on the prior commission call after evaluating state laws.

In closing comments, Calvert reported he had spoken with Commissioner [Allen] Armstrong (District 1) who feels as Calvert does. He also suggested that Probate Judge/Commission Chairman Chris Green should come out with his stated position on the matter. He held that “we all believe Blount County has the right to vote.”

Councilwoman Tonya Rogers won approval to spend $46,000 for new turn-out gear for the city firefighters. Rogers contended the price reasonable and stated her pleasure that the supplier is an Alabama firm (Sunbelt Fire of Fairhope). That amounts to $1,868 per firefighter and each turn-out includes coat, pants, belt, and boots.

In a related matter, the council accepted the resignation of firefighter Andrew Gargus, leaving to work with the Birmingham City Fire Department and hired Jay Brown for an open position in the department. Gargus also asked for inclusion in part-time status with Oneonta.

In other personnel matters, the council approved reappointing Lowe, fire chief David Osborne, and realtor Bob Harvey to the city planning commission. Members also added Daniel Clem to the Jefferson-Blount-St. Clair Mental Health Authority.

Councilman Mark Gargus presented lengthy lists of summer park and recreational employees. The council accepted as lifeguards: Lexie Blair, Ethan Boyd, Thomas Boyd, Noah Cheek, Spencer Gargus, Richard Gilliland, Sara Higginbotham, Kallie Killough, Manny Mendoza, Grace Ann Moody, Taylor Oden, Austin Owens, Skylar Ray, Bailey Roberson, Emilee Roddam, Jordan Schatz, Isabella Shores, Tyler Short, and Anne Marie Wester, with James Whitehead serving as manager and Tim Gipson as his assistant.

Gargus listed the following as concession and field maintenance workers: Blake Bean, Abby Blackwood, Anna Blackwood, Jesse Bowling, Jonathan Butler, Destiney Elliott, Mitchell Ellis, Clint Gibson, Grant Hardeman, Jalen Johnson, Jackie Jones, Jamie Jones, Thomas Lowe, Amairani Perez, Annalee Posey, Matthew Roberts, Nathan Rhudy, Dimonique Sanders, Caleb Stutts, Thomas Wadsworth, and Katherine Wester with Marie Walden managing and Alice Tillie assisting.

Hudson Avenue resident Ron Brown asked the council to consider “overriding” a city ordinance to provide an additional streetlight on his street. Gargus verified that the proposed location would be on private land and explained the council cannot do so. Brown immediately accepted Gargus’s explanation.

Mayor Ross Norris and councilmen Hal Blackwood, Tim McNair, and Danny Robinson joined Rogers and Gargus for the Feb. 26 meeting delayed until 6 p.m. due to prior notice of a workshop session. The council normally meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in city hall.