BAKER — The City Council on Tuesday tabled a proposed ordinance that would put Baker’s liquor laws in line with the more-stringent state law in measuring the 300 feet required between establishments selling alcoholic beverages and churches and schools.
Councilwoman Doris Alexander, who drafted the proposal and moved to table it, said she wishes to give council members and the public more time to study the issue.
In January, the council passed an ordinance allowing the city to measure door to door rather than property line to property line, as stated in state law, between a school or church and any establishment applying for a liquor license. The state does allow municipalities to use alternative means of measuring.
The issue surfaced again in August, when RaceTrac began its quest for a liquor license for a proposed gas station on La. 19 and Groom Road near Baker High School.
When measured door to door, the distance between the school and the proposed gas station would be 375 feet, according to documents submitted by RaceTrac; however, the Baker High parking lot is adjacent to the property where the gas station would be located.
At the Aug. 8 council meeting, Alexander attempted to return Baker to the state’s method of measurement, but she failed to provide the council with a written ordinance, violating proper procedure as dictated by Baker’s Home Rule Charter.
During the next council meeting, on Aug. 22, Alexander did provide a written ordinance proposal, which was introduced by the council.
However, the Baker Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted Sept. 5 to grant the liquor license to RaceTrac for the proposed gas station, despite opposition from the Baker School Board and nearby First Baptist Church of Baker. The alcohol board used the less stringent door-to-door measurement allowed under Baker law.
Alcohol board members Willie Williams, Joe Williams, Yolanda Vessell, Joyce Matthews and Brenda Lands voted in favor of granting the license. Clifford Johnson cast the dissenting vote and Naisha Cooper was absent.
The board’s decision is final and not subject to approval from the Baker City Council, which appoints the board members.
The City Council on Tuesday also voted unanimously to appoint longtime Baker resident John F. Lecompte, who was nominated by Alexander, to serve on the Baker alcohol board, replacing Willie Williams.
In other business, the council introduced a proposed ordinance that would institute fines for people who obstruct ditches or drains in the city.
Anyone who constructs a driveway ramp or other structure on any public street right of way or allows debris to remain in a public street, gutter, ditch or drain, would first receive a written warning from the city. A second offense would result in a $50 fine, and any subsequent occurrence could incur a $100 fine.
The council also voted to amend the city’s budget to change the auditor’s fee from $60,000 to $82,000.
In July, the council appointed certified public accountant Joseph Akanaji from firm Bruno & Tervalon to handle the city’s audit for 2016-17.
During her report, interim city finance director Mary Sue Stages announced that Baker has been removed from the state auditor’s noncompliance list, allowing state funds to again flow into the city.
The city was placed on the list in the spring as a result of negative findings on its 2015-16 audit.