BOC holds called meeting, grants alcoholic beverage license

Published 10:35 am Saturday, May 25, 2019

By Ken Gustafson


AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners held a called meeting on Tuesday to discuss Board appointments, which was done in closed session.

Once closed session was over, the board began its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. A public hearing was called to consider a request from Sarah Lee Nichols, owner of the Tri-County Seaford Lakeshore Grill, to receive a license to allow for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on premise. The restaurant is located at 4262 U.S. Highway 280 East in Cobb. Nichols was not present at the meeting, but her husband Damon Nichols addressed the board on her behalf. County Clerk Rayetta Volley told the board that Nichols has filed for the license and has complied with the Sumter County Fire Department and Code Enforcement. She also stated that Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith has approved it.

“We currently have been operating a restaurant in Cordele for seven years, and we hold an alcohol license there. The Lakeshore Grill has been open for two weeks now. We are hoping to get approval for alcohol sales there also,” Nichols said.

Jones asked if there was anyone who wanted to speak on behalf of or against the proposed approval. No one spoke for or against it. Jones asked for a motion for approval to grant the license. Commissioner George Torbert made the motion and Commissioner Scott Roberson seconded it. It passed unanimously.

The board also heard a request from the Hands of Hope Pregnancy & Resource Center for a special exception for the operation of a resource center located at 137 Thomas Drive in Americus. Andrea Walker, a member of the pregnancy center’s board, told the commissioners that the center has been serving Americus and Sumter County for over 30 years. “The reason for our desire to relocate is because we are restricted where we are right now. There’s not enough space,” she said. Jones asked if anyone wanted to speak on behalf of or against the approval. No one spoke up. Jones asked for a motion for approval. Roberson made the motion to approve and Torbert seconded it.  It passed unanimously.

Wally and Christina Joiner of the Sumter County Saddle Club discussed with the board their current situation with the Sumter County equestrian arena, located across the street from the Sumter County Stockyards on Southerfield Road. The arena was originally owned by the Deriso family, but was deeded over to the county. Volley stated that according to the deed, if the county doesn’t use it for equestrian purposes, the county would have to give it back to the Deriso family. “The discussion that we’ve had about it was whether or not we wanted to give it back to the family,” Volley said. Christina Joiner is the president of the local saddle club, a non-profit organization that puts on horse shows at the arena. The shows consist primarily of barrel racing. Volley replied that the only thing the county would need to have from whoever is using the arena is a lease between them and the county.

County Attorney Kimberly Reid said that there is a clause called a gratuities clause, which states that the county can’t give anything to a private citizen free of charge. Reid explained to the Joiners that there are two ways to conduct the lease or rent. “If you want exclusive use, and the commissioners agree, we could do a lease that states that the Sumter County Saddle Club is the sole user of the arena during that time,” Reid said. “The other option that the commissioners could consider would be one that is similar to the way we rent out the parks and recreation facilities. You rent them for a particular day. That’s something that both the board of commissioners and the club would have to consider as far as what direction you want to go in.”

Wally Joiner stated that he didn’t think the saddle club would want exclusive possession of the horse arena. “We have seven show dates remaining this year,” he said. “Those dates are subject to change due to bad weather.” Christina Joiner added that the horse shows bring people into the county and people attending the shows spend their money here. ”We’re a nonprofit organization. It’s not like we’re making money,” she said. “It gives the people around here something to do. The arena is being used.” Commissioner Torbert stated that the board’s biggest concern is that the arena is being used without the board being aware of it. “If somebody is using it for those purposes, we just need to have somebody that is willing to assume liability,” Torbert said. Jones said this all came about due to the fact that the county is trying to eliminate property that it has maintained. “We were considering giving the arena back to the owner. We need some amount of income from the property in order to pay for the maintenance of the property,” Jones said.

Torbert suggested that the county work out an exclusive lease with the saddle club. Attorney Reid said that the standard facility rental requirement states that the saddle club needs to have an insurance policy. Christina Joiner replied that her organization has never had to have an insurance policy. Reid asked Sumter County Parks and Recreation Director Tim Estes whether or not a facility rental agreement requires proof of insurance. Estes replied that it does in certain at-risk events such as wrestling and boxing. Volley stated that she is trying to figure out a solution that would benefit both the saddle club and the county. “I want us to do it properly, correctly and fairly, like we do all of our other rentals,” Volley said. Volley sais, in her opinion, the best thing to do is to look at Estes’ rental agreements that he has with various properties and then to get back with the Joiners to discuss the various options available to them.