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A new beginning?

Published 12:32pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Citizens speak in support of reinstating license for Benson Community Center

Community members Garland Gamble and Jimmy Boleware spoke on behalf of business owner Jeffrey Benson at the city council’s Monday night meeting, asking that Benson’s business license for Benson Community Center be reinstated.

As previously reported in The Outlook, the community center’s license was not renewed after a city council vote in March 2012 following a series of incidents – including a January 2012 Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board bust in which 11 individuals were arrested on 18 separate charges.

Benson said he has been renting the community center since that time and is now attempting to comply with the October 2012 ordinance changes that require anyone renting commercial property to obtain a business license.

“I’m here on behalf of the business people of the city – I have no financial interest at all in Benson Community Center,” Gamble said. “I’m here because I’m a fellow businessman, and I’d like to see this gentleman get an opportunity to operate his business legally … Mr. Benson has addressed several of those issues.”

Benson said he has since employed a security team to ensure the safety of the patrons and said much of the noise associated with the center actually comes from vehicles of the patrons rather than the community center itself, though he has worked to keep noise down in the area. Alexander City Police Chief Charles Rafford said the ACPD has received 51 calls – a majority of those being noise complaints – since the community center lost its license.

Gamble reminded the council that if Benson does not adhere to the guidelines set before him as a business owner, the council has the opportunity to revoke his license at any time.

“You all have the authority to approve his license and give Mr. Benson an opportunity to prove himself as a business person,” Gamble said. “If those complaints continue as they have … then you do what you should do – shut him down.”

Boleware said the community center is “not just a place where people go to get drunk and act a fool” and instead is a family-friendly place to gather for celebrations such as graduations, baby showers and wedding receptions.

“This facility has been in Alexander City for a number of years,” Boleware said. “If the police department is using the number of complaints as a rationale for not issuing this business license, then look at Walmart and the number of complaints that they have. You have just as many calls and incidents at these other businesses that operate with licenses. But when we have something in the black community, the least little thing that comes up we want to deny the license and the opportunity to have a business and earn a living.”

Council President Bob Howard said the license will be put to vote at the council’s March 4 meeting.

The council also:

- unanimously approved a zoning ordinance changing property at 2500 U.S. Highway 280 from its present PD designation to B-2 designation, at the request of Donald E. Hinks

- approved an agreement with the State of Alabama in regards to the current ATRIP project set to resurface Coley Creek and Scott roads and Sunny Level Cutoff

- rescinded Resolution 13-38 in light of a misunderstanding with CH2M Hill about the price of the engineering agreement relating to assistance with installing a new disinfectant byproducts system for the city’s water supply and unanimously approved a modified agreement for $74,500 with CH2M Hill

- awarded bids for three police vehicles to McKelvey Chevrolet of Dadeville in an amount not to exceed $82,686.75

- awarded a bid to Interceptor Public Safety Products of Opelika for equipment for aforementioned police patrol vehicles in an amount not to exceed $22,460

- authorized Mayor Charles Shaw to enter into a lease agreement with Mears Motor Leasing for two vehicles with required equipment for ACPD