Baker School Board holds first meeting in new office, honors students _lowres

Photo provided by Emily Beck Cogburn -- The Baker School Board buildling.

BAKER — The Baker School Board decided Tuesday to put off until March 21 voting on a resolution that would dismiss their lawsuit regarding a proposed RaceTrac gas station near Baker High School and allow the Baker Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to grant a waiver allowing alcohol to be sold at the location.

In 2017, the School Board sued the Baker ABC Board for granting a license to sell alcohol at a proposed RaceTrac gas station at 1182 Main St., on the corner of Main Street and Groom Road. The site is next to the football stadium parking lot for Baker High.

Four of the five School Board members serving at that time — Calvin Dees, Dana Carpenter, Elaine Davis and Rosatina Johnson — voted in favor of filing the lawsuit. Shona Boxie voted against the measure, saying at the time that she didn’t think the board should be fighting the city and pointing out that the gas station would bring revenue to the city and the school district.

Boxie and Davis are the only members then serving who remain on the board.

Tuesday night, RaceTrac attorney Tom Easterly presented board members with a packet prepared by the company outlining the advantages to the city and the school district the gas station would bring.

RaceTrac would revitalize the corner, he said, tearing down the existing buildings that house a check-cashing establishment and dentist office and bring jobs and tax revenue to the city.

Easterly drafted the resolution and revised it on school board attorney Winston DeCuir’s suggestion that it should limit the proposed alcohol sale waiver to RaceTrac, so that any subsequent owner of the property would have to reapply for an alcohol sale license.

“I just want the public to know that RaceTrac could come tomorrow. The city of Baker authorized you to come two years ago, and you said you wanted to come without selling alcohol,” Davis said. “This resolution, which was written by (Easterly), has the School Board giving up all of its rights to file suit against you in the future with respect to any issue regarding alcoholic beverages.”

Board member Joyce Burges made the motion to delay voting on the resolution.

“I am for economic development, however, here we are with a resolution RaceTrac created," Burges said. "I would like to be part of creating a resolution if I’m going to sign it.” 

The School Board’s lawsuit maintains that an ordinance the City Council passed in January 2017 changing Baker’s law concerning how far away a business selling alcohol must be from a school or church violated state law.

Previously, Baker’s ordinance had stated that the distance must be measured from the property line of the house of worship or school to the nearest point of the premise to be licensed.

The new ordinance stipulated that the city would measure the distance from door to door, effectively allowing alcohol-selling establishments to be located closer to schools and houses of worship.

The measurement provided by RaceTrac showed the distance between the proposed gas station and Baker High to be 375 feet, meeting the state requirement of at least 300 feet between a store selling alcohol and a house of worship or school.

The board also:

  • Voted to add five instructional days for Bakerfield Elementary, Baker Heights Elementary and Baker Middle School, making the start date for those schools July 31. Park Ridge Academic Magnet and Baker High School will start on Aug. 7.
  • Recognized fifth-, eighth- and 12th-grade students of the year: Frank Smith, Baker High School; Gabrielle Williams, Park Ridge Academic Magnet; Nylani Ford, Baker Middle School; Crista Earvin, Park Ridge Academic Magnet; Alainia Ladey, Bakerfield Elementary School; and Keven Banos, Baker Heights Elementary School. Districtwide students of the year are Frank Smith and Crista Earvin.
  • Honored coach Eric Randall and all-district Baker High School football players Desmond Windon, Bryant Williams, Martise Covington, Dillion Cage, Camryn King, Kendall McKinnis, Tyren Henderson, Kiley Clifton, Jalen Gross, and Javarius Knox.