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Unicoi County Commission upholds distance restriction on beer sales

The Unicoi County Commission and Beer Board met for their monthly November meeting on Monday, Nov. 24, at the Unicoi County Courthouse.
A large crowd was on hand to see the result of a vote held by the Beer Board on whether or not to uphold an ordinance requiring stores that sell beer to remain at least 2,000 feet away from schools and churches.
“We’re here to talk about changing the ordinance from 2,000 feet,” said Beer Board Chairman Walter Garland. “A lot of people are satisfied with the way it currently is.”
The controversy arose from business owners who were concerned that by not being able to freely sell beer at their current status due to their proximity to aforementioned facilities, they were losing out to larger stores like Walmart and Walgreens.
Petitions had been raised on both sides of the issue. Former commissioner James Howell spoke up from the audience saying that he had gathered petitions as well.
After a brief discussion, Commissioner Gene Wilson made a motion to uphold the ordinance at 2,000 feet. The board voted unanimously to accept the motion. The nearly full courtroom erupted into applause following the passing of the verdict.
“I appreciate all of y’all for being here,” said Wilson to the crowd in attendance. “People need to get involved and be involved with politics.”
During the county commission meeting, another item on the agenda was to consider a request to amend the county resolution forbidding the sell, store and manufacture of beer within 2,000 feet of schools, churches and other places of public gathering, which was discussed during the Beer Board meeting. The commission elected to pass a motion to accept the results of the Beer Board meeting.
However, Tracy Brummett, who had pushed for the amendment of the ordinance, questioned the legality of the decision. Brummett said that he thinks it was done illegally by voting during the 5 p.m. session instead of the 6 p.m. meeting. Brummett said that he thought that the issue would be thoroughly discussed prior to the meeting and then voted on during the 6 p.m. meeting.
“I personally think it was an illegal vote,” said Brummett.
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In other business, the board approved a resolution to name the new overpass being constructed from Second Street to Main Street in honor of Pat Brown, who formerly owned the property on which the bridge is being built.
The board presented Patricia Harris, Brown’s daughter, with a copy of the resolution.
Commissioner Kenneth Garland said that he thought the county commission had no control over naming the overpass and said that the Town of Erwin usually deals with naming the bridges.
The commission also passed motions to approve a contract for Blind Operation Vending Facilities at Unicoi County Jail. The commission passed a motion to approve the “Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program” for the purchase for a police cruiser by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department. All motions passed unanimously.
The board also recognized Capt. Jimmy Erwin of the sheriff’s department to discuss two other grants. The sheriff’s department has been awarded two grants in the amount of $15,000 and $5,000, for a total of $20,000. The funds will be used in several avenues, such as paying officers for overtime during the holidays.
The board also presented Interfund Loan Documents which included reports on debt obligations. No vote was needed.
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In other business, the board opted to appoint Jim Bowman to the Civil Service Board. Debbie Tittle was recognized as COATS Register of the Year by Marie Rice.
The board also passed a motion to cancel the December meeting in recognition of the Christmas holiday.