published Friday, October 28th, 2011

Rossville election focuses on Roy’s Diner

by Andy Johns

ROSSVILLE — The two men vying to be Rossville’s next mayor agree on one thing: voters want to talk about Roy’s Diner and the Downtown Development Authority that brokered the Roy’s deal.

From there they diverge, including over whether the city-sponsored group’s involvement with the restaurant was a good idea.

Former fire chief Bill Eaves, 69, says he’s heard from plenty of voters who are upset with the authority and the way it handled the acquisition and resale of the iconic restaurant on U.S. Highway 27. Eaves said he had a business that stood on its own for 25 years without government help.

“I don’t think the city needs to be in the financing business,” Eaves said.

But councilman and mayoral candidate Teddy Harris, 48, says there’s a lot of support for a reinvented Roy’s. He’s one of the RDDA’s biggest supporters.

“If we don’t invest in our downtown, it’s going to be what it is,” Harris said. “If you do nothing, you’re going to get nothing.”

In September 2010, Rossville leaders announced that the city had bought the nostalgic Roy’s building and 1.2 acres of land around it for $110,000, pulling money from its reserves.

The city deeded the property to the development authority, which sold the building to Wayne and Troy Potter for $50,000. The RDDA kept a triangle-shaped plot next to Roy’s for a park and will use the rest as a parking lot.

Eaves said he’s sure the authority members are “good people,” but he criticized the decision to buy and resell the property.

He said the authority members are appointed “at the pleasure” of the council and mayor, but said the organization’s future is not in jeopardy.

“They’ll be around, that’s not an issue,” he said, pointing out the group’s marketing efforts for the city. “We need that. That’s something we’ve got to have.”

Harris commended the group’s work and what he called creative ideas to resurrect decaying areas of the town.

“We’ve got to think outside the box,” he said.

Harris, a furniture salesman, criticized Eaves’ suggestion of levying a gross receipts tax on city businesses.

“In this economic climate the last thing we need to do is put that burden on businesses,” he said.

Fort Oglethorpe and other cities have gross receipts taxes. Such a tax is usually a graduated fee based on a business’s sales figures.

Eaves said the tax would be revenue-neutral and could help eliminate at $6.50 fee on water bills that he says has many seniors steamed. He said the receipts tax would help the city collect from all businesses and apartment complexes.

“There are a lot of people in the city with businesses who don’t pay anything,” he said.

Harris and Eaves previously squared off in a four-person council race in 2007 where Harris retained his seat with the highest number of votes and Eaves came in last.

Rossville voters on Nov. 8 also will select two council members from five candidates.

Current mayor Johnny Baker is running for council along Cindy Bradshaw, Jesse Harrell, Charles Wilson and incumbent Hal Gray. The two highest vote-getters will take the seats.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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