PICKENS, Ga. — The Jasper City Council held a work session on March 31. During the meeting the council discussed ordinance amendments, approved several purchases, and extended employment offers for Jasper Police and Fire Chief positions.
After a nationwide search for Jasper’s next fire chief, the council unanimously voted to extend a conditional offer of employment to John Sherrer III. Similarly, Interim Police Chief Mathew Dawkins was selected from a national group of candidates for Jasper Police Chief. The council’s conditional offer of employment to Dawkins was approved after another unanimous vote.
Councilmember Sonny Proctor complimented the qualifications of both candidates, and Councilmember Anne Sneve highlighted the number of strong candidates that were considered during the process. Mayor Steve Lawrence called the process exhausting, but said “it was well done, and I feel like, again, we have gone out nationally to get the best … person for our city. I admire this council greatly for taking that action, and a special thanks to our HR director who did such a good job setting all this up.”
After the city council work session, The City of Jasper released two press releases noting the offer of employment, for Fire Chief and Police Chief, and marked the beginning of both candidates’ commencement period.
The council also discussed ordinance revisions during the work session. The Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) Policy Ordinance, intended to strengthen and clarify existing city policy, was approved by the council. The revision will also establish a maintenance program that will include penalties for non-compliance, according to Kim Goldener.
The council also heard from City Manager Jammes on the city’s alcohol ordinances: “In an effort to evaluate some of the economic needs and long-term liability and sustainability in our downtown, we would like to amend certain parts of the current alcohol ordinance to make some allowances for some new types of businesses that are wanting to open up in our vibrant downtown.” She also noted that the ordinance was approved during the 1970s and is outdated in some ways, specifically mentioning a restriction on happy hour specials.
The council’s discussion focused on two sections of the Alcohol Ordinance, concerning pouring licenses for independent living facilities and whether or not high-end beer service would be permitted without food sales. While the council agreed that independent living facilities should not be restricted from obtaining a license, City Attorney David Syfan raised concerns about potential ambiguity in high-end beer facilities. “I have the tendency to think if we allow a high-end beer facility, that we ought to have a food requirement,” a suggestion Syfan said would prevent possible ambiguity that could lead to bars opening downtown. Ultimately, the council gave their opinion that an amended ordinance should allow independent living facilities to obtain a pouring license, but enact a food sale requirement for high-end beer facilities.
The Jasper City Council also approved several purchases during the meeting. Among the purchase approvals were already budgeted expenditures, like inventory parts and a lawn mower for the city’s Water Department. The council also approved the purchase of raw water pump.
Notably, the council also approved the purchase of an additional user license for the ArcGIS system, the geographic information system software used by the city of Jasper, at a cost of $27,000. City Manager Sonia Jammes, who presented the request, said “I know this comes as no shock to anyone, that the secret of Jasper is out. The jewel is out, and as such we need to prepare for future development, and we need to provide staff with the tools to prepare for that future development.” Jammes told the council that a second user license would let staff work on two projects simultaneously and increase accessibility to precise and updated information.
Continuing the discussion on downtown bathrooms, the council discussed conceptual drawings for proposed downtown bathrooms. The council moved to create a committee to further communicate with the engineers of the project, who say the project should be ready to move forward in weeks rather than months.
Discussion on Perrow Park also continued during the work session. A cabin currently on the property will be removed at the suggestion of a steering committee, according to City Manager Jammes. She said the committee recommended removal “with a caveat that they would like to use some of the existing stone foundations to pay homage to the … original owner of the property by putting some plaques and incorporating that stone in different sites of what the vision is for the property.” The council voted to approve removal of the cabin.
Before the council began an executive session, Councilmember Kirk Raffield noted that March 31 was the last day of Women’s History Month: “We are ending Women’s History Month with a city organization being restructured where our ladies are actually leading the entire organization. I do not want that to fall on deaf ears, this is history in the making.”