Board of Aldermen

Articles written exclusively by one member of our staff are notated accordingly. Articles in which more than one person contributed are marked as The Real Story Staff Report, while ones taken from press releases provided to us are referred to as Special to the Real Story.

“Hotdonia” — The Problem that Wasn’t

How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? ~~~ A quote from a really famous guy!

Standing in front of the Cal-Grocery, a person would have to strain their eyes to see the United Pentecostal Church.  It is a beautiful structure with a large parking lot and all the amenities needed to ensure a pleasant worshipping experience. On Saturday afternoon, it appears to be as quiet and serene as a baby lamb.

However, this is the problem; the fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that the church is too close to the store.  Cal-City is in purgatory because three people (Aldermen) say that even though it was built first, Cal-City is too close to the church who worships a God whose first miracle was to turn water into wine, because it sells beer.

But, before anyone gets lost in the stereotypical characterizations about “good ol’ religious folks”, understand that the Pastor of the Church, Grant Mitchell, and his congregation have not made a peep about the existence of Cal-City.  No, not a word.  They are too busy living their lives.  If they have complained, it has been professional and to the appropriate people.  But, they have not showed up at the meetings, all cloaked in righteous indignation.

No crazy “witch hunts.”  No one yelling at meetings or holding picket signs.  No one shouting about sin and the “demon rum”.  No, as a matter of fact, this is not a religious or a church issue, at all.

It’s about three people who feel they can tell the community whether or not they can buy a beer at a particular store, even though the whole county has a history of being “wet” while the rest of the State remained “dry” for decades.  For years, this fact was the economic strength of the area, and when this advantage was lost, so where hundreds of jobs.

And, in the middle of this mess we find a business owner, a family who is still grieving the death of a father and the community.  Whether or not the February 11, 2012 meeting was legal or not, and whether or not the vote against continuing Cal-City’s “grandfather clause” exemption was valid, is irrelevant at this point.  That will be for the lawyers to resolve.

However, what is at stake is a business and a sense of fairness and justice.  It is always crazy, but when many people feel they have “God on their side,” it is all right to act in unethical and bizarre ways.  Like a business fighting a lawsuit, being told they can’t re-open because it is too close to a church that was built after the business had been in service for years.  And oh,  by the way, the church has not been at the meetings being loud and proud and demanding “no beer”.

No, it’s about three people, or maybe two-and-a-half people, since one of them pulled “the old switcheroo” on his vote at the February meeting. Whatever it is about, it is not about the church.  It is about power and control and “what would Jesus do?”  He would have a glass of wine.

Nothing is more despicable then to make a power grab in the name of the Lord.

In other “Hotdonia” news, the Marshal’s office is becoming another heated topic.  On Page (?), a letter written from Marshal Kilgore, explaining his actions of the past few months, can be read. Once again, the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished” is fully expressed, if everything he says in the letter is true.

Regardless of who is telling the truth in this matter, and usually it is somewhere in the middle, it is obvious that things are difficult at the Department.  Two new deputies were named at the last Town Hall meeting, and it appears that John Pevey and Ben Gill will help take the mantle of law enforcement in town.  They will need lots of luck and determination.  It is always tough to work in an environment where there is already so much strife.

Add this on top of the fact that Benny Coleman is also under heat from some community members, and Mayor Gerhart is battling with the aldermen, and you can see that all is not well in “Hotdonia.”  For a little town with so much calm and beauty on the outside, turmoil is bubbling everywhere underneath the surface of the town.

After the March 6th meeting, many people in the audience mentioned that Caledonia was a nice town with great people in it. But, like in many communities, it is the leadership that has them worried.

Like the CCVB, the nature of the Caledonia Town Hall meetings are too personal.  People are upset and feelings are hurt.  The concepts of organization and decorum are tossed out the window.

Everything is personal and everyone has an agenda.  And, the tension can be felt before the meeting begins.  If change is not implemented, it will only be a matter of time before the breakdown makes the leaders look foolish and impotent.  It has to stop before the community loses all respect for their leaders’ authority.

It is time for the leaders of Caledonia to form a legion with the community, and not be a lesion.   The spelling of the two words is almost identical, but they have two completely different meanings.  And, if the Mayor and the Aldermen are not careful, they will be a sore on the community.

Meanwhile, while the leaders fix their problems, leave Jesus and the churches alone.  If you don’t want  the store to sell beer, just say so.  Don’t hide behind the mask of piety, to make your decision.  The Church down the road is too busy for this foolishness.  They’re trying to save souls.

Joseph B. St. John

A/K/A Mr. MoJo Rising

Originally Published in March 14, 2012 Print Edition


An Anything-but Pleasant Saturday Morning Meeting

Saturday’s Town Hall meeting in Caledonia pitted the age-old question of cold beer sales and the ability to keep the community family friendly.  However, Saturday’s meeting came with twists, turns and at least one back-door switcheroo, where one Alderman had a change of heart between the private board room and the open forum.  The meeting was brisk and attended by over 20 concerned citizens, with both sides equally represented.

At stake was the future of the Cal-City Grocery, an establishment that had been in existence since 1973.  During that time, it had been allowed to function freely and has served cold beer since its inception.  Additionally, it was given a “grandfather clause” exemption in 1982, when the Town of Caledonia made provisions that alcohol could not be sold within 1,500 feet of a church.  The question at hand was whether Cal-City would lose its “grandfather status”, after being closed involuntarily for just over three months.

The vote was three-to-two, with only Aldermen Quinn Parham and Mike Savage voting “yes” to continue the “grandfather clause” for Cal-City.  Shortly after the meeting, the vote was met with shock, as many individuals close to the situation advised that Alderman Bill Darnell had changed his mind, after supporting the Cal-City request in private session.  This reversal of fortune by Mr. Darnell switched the entire complexity of the situation.

The store was owned by Bill Pearrow, until his passing less than two years ago.   At that time, his family had leased it to other individuals until November of 2011, at which time the family claims the lease was broken.

Ms. Valerie Riley, along with her attorney, Steve Wallace, spoke to the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen and stated that they have been working to keep the grocery functioning, but have had legal issues and construction concerns since the store was abandoned by its former lessees.  Ms. Riley stated that she approached the Mayor and Board of Aldermen in an October 2011 Board of Aldermen meeting, to ensure they understood her concerns.

When asked about Saturday’s meeting, Ms. Riley said, “I did not even know they were having a meeting, until my husband, Richard, told me and he was told by someone else.  And that is not right.”

Cal-City’s potential buyer, Jeff Doty, opened the meeting and was careful not to break the balance of business and community spirit. He stated that he wanted to run a clean and legitimate business and thought that the store could bring in over a million dollars of revenue.  He repeatedly assured everyone present that he wanted to run a respectable business.

One of the most outspoken opponents of the measure to allow cold beer sales was former Alderman Tommy Wiggins, who voted for the store to be given a “grandfather” provision in 1982.  Speaking to him and his wife, Mildred, during the break for deliberation, both stated that if the business continued to have its  “grandfather clause”, it was a moot issue – a statement reiterated many times by Board Attorney Jeff Smith, during the meeting.

Both of them, however, were extremely worried about Cal-City being given a variance to the existing law, stating they were concerned if that solution was passed, every business in town would be coming before the board to request the same exemption. When this topic was broached, after the Board removed Cal-City’s “grandfather clause”, it died from a lack of a “second” to the motion.

Citizen Roy Lemmerman also had concerns that plague all of Lowndes County, when he stated that whenever Cal-City had deliveries, the vehicles blocked the streets and, since there are no sidewalks, children walking in the area were not safe.  This is a complaint that is often heard throughout all our communities.

After the meeting, both Ms. Riley and Mr. Doty expressed their position.  Ms. Riley stated,” I still hold a valid beer permit and we never tried to close the place as a business.  I went to the Board and advised them as soon as I saw the problem (with the past lessees) develop.”

When asked if he would buy the business if Cal-City could not sell beer, he stated, “No, but this has just lit a fire under me.  I have already been in touch with my attorneys.”  Mr. Doty also had concerns about how the meeting was conducted and whether the board was required to wait 30 days to enact, what he believed to be, a new law.

This story is not over and should be a hot-button topic for the next few months.

Mr. MoJo Rising

Originally Posted in February 22, 2012 Print Edition

Reader Comments

bill Says:

February 14, 2012 at 8:43 am

You are dealing with ignorance from the Mayor on down. No change in sight. When you elect stupid you get stupid.

doug Says:

February 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Now you know why this is a one traffic light town.

Frank Beall Says:

February 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm e

Brenda, Bill & Steve:

I, for the life of me, cannot understand your vote to not allow Cal-City to continue operating as before.

Your vote on this matter is definitely not to the betterment of Caledonia coffers. How much sales tax will Caledonia lose because of your vote?

With votes like this, I understand why we can’t get other businesspeople to open up in Caledonia. Where is our bank, hardware store, etc.?

What citizen input did you all have on this vote? Or did you all only vote your own convictions.

No one contacted me as to what I thought of letting Cal-City continue operating as before. Was anyone else contacted or did you all just vote for what you all wanted.

Take a poll of the board members and ascertain what they have done to bring new business to Caledonia. (?)

Also ascertain what the citizens are getting for their money. Probably looking for a raise in the next budget. Oops, I forgot, you all can vote a new salary at any time and just adjust the budget.

During these tough times, have any of you board members considered taking a pay cut or donating a portion of your very lucrative salary to help those who do not have jobs?

I am of the understanding that alderpersons are elected to serve the people of Caledonia, not just a few, and to vote according to the wishes of the people that elected you.

Hopefully, in the next election, we the people will elect some new board members that will look out for the voters, not just themselves. We need board members that know how to run a business and make decisions to help the town grow, not people that just want a payday for doing nothing.


2 Comments on “Board of Aldermen”

  1. slack water Says:

    The letter published in the Dispatch today is not the same letter that I remember reading earlier – the one that was much more big shotty where JS pounds his chest about his stature in the MS Legislator.


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