Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker said he plans on Monday, June 10, to ask city council members to give the green light to package sales of beer and wine within the city limits in an effort to generate revenue to fund the public library. The city — which cut $28,725 from the library’s $58,725 budget this year — may be forced to begin phasing out the public library in July if the city does not raise property taxes or find another source of revenue, such as taxes and license fees from malt beverage sales.
City residents, in a straw poll in last year, voted 281-189 against package malt beverage sales within city limits. Only about one-quarter of the city’s 1,600 registered voters participated in the straw poll.
“We are in a situation that the council is going to have to take some firm, hard stands,” Baker said.
Although many in Rossville believe the results of last year’s non-binding straw poll “shut the door” on the package sales issue, the mayor said permitting the sales could generate up to $100,000 annually, which would give the city a much-needed financial boost. He believes these funds could ensure the city keeps its library and serve as good start to relieving some financial pressures.
City leaders, business owners and residents have proposed various other options for alleviating these pressures, including raising property taxes, cutting city services or turning some departments over to the county to manage, deannexing South Mission Ridge Drive and surrendering the city’s charter.
Councilman James Crane on Wednesday refused to comment on the city’s finances, and council members Rick Buff, Joe Moore and William Earl Morton could not be reached for comment.
Permitting package malt beverage sales “is not the salvation of our city,” said Jeff Daniel, pastor of Rossville Baptist Church.
Daniel, who opposes the sales, believes the library has become a righteous cause to justify immoral behavior, he said. He compared the issue to selling lottery tickets to support education, adding he does not think Baker will convince the council to permit the package sales.
Daniel said he supports the mayor and council, believes they have made many decisions that benefited the city and sympathizes with their position; however, Daniel estimates the city would generate $20,000, at most, annually, from taxes and license fees on malt beverages, because only a handful of stores would sell it, he said.
Ruth Miller, a Rossville resident for 65 years, said she supports package malt beverage sales because of the revenues they would generate for the city. She used the library when she was a student and wants the resource to re-main open for the convenience of Rossville’s students.
Rossville resident Rudy Wall said he also supports the package sales and thinks the council should have voted last year on the issue, rather than conducting a straw poll.
Ila Quarles of Quarles Amoco on Chickamauga Avenue has repeatedly approached city leaders about permitting the package sales.
“The people of Rossville have lived with beer under their noses for 20 years,” Quarles said after last year’s straw poll. “I simply wanted to extend, at my business, a commodity that is already sold in Rossville.”
“Any business in Rossville should have the option to sell or not to sell beer, but it’s obvious it’s restricted to one business only,” she added.
The Favorite Market on James Street sells packaged beer, but the store was rearranged several years ago so the coolers and cash registers lie outside the city limits.
The key to reviving Rossville’s sagging economy is rebuilding the city’s industrial base, and doing so would put more money in the city coffers than package malt beverage sales will, Daniel said.
Daniel, whose church is on McFarland Avenue, said he estimates traffic on the thoroughfare has increased 20 percent since the U.S. 27 bypass around Chickamauga Battlefield opened in October.
Daniel and city clerk Sherry Foster said they have noted a marked increase on traffic on McFarland in the morning and evenings with commuter traffic and parents taking their children to school. Foster said Chickamauga Avenue and Hogan Road have seen traffic increases on a smaller scale.
Widening the street from Battlefield Parkway to Rossville Boulevard to four lanes and installing a middle turn lane “would be a tremendous help” in luring business to the downtown and boosting the economy, Daniel said.
“Transportation flow is the key to economic development,” said Kathy Johnson, director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority.
Johnson said the authority works closely with county and Rossville leaders to recruit industry to Rossville. The authority’s focus recently been to heighten awareness of Rossville and its potential at the state level with Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, other officials and utilities.
Johnson is working hard to stimulate interest in the older mills, such as the Peerless Mill and Coates Building, and several developers have examined the sites, Baker said.
Johnson said believes the old mill buildings have a lot of potential, and she is trying to match the right businesses with those locations, building sizes, ceiling heights and other requirements.
She thinks downtown beautification efforts, which include demolishing the Hoover Clinic and building a park behind the duck pond, and better signage will also help Rossville’s business prospects, she said.
The mayor said he expects to hear from the Department of Transportation within the next few weeks about streets and hopes to begin streetscaping efforts within a year. He would also like to tear down abandoned residences to overhaul the city’s appearance.
Rossville’s availability of water is also a major draw for developers, he said.
“As Walker County grows, Rossville has to grow,” he said.
Rossville officials should install signs along Battlefield Parkway to show the route to Rossville, according to Michelle Lewis of Dream Cream on McFarland Avenue. Doing so would put more dollars in the pockets of Rossville business owners, she said