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City hires first ever female firefighter

FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER – History was made on Monday, March 27 when the city board hired Briyona Batchelor as the first female firefighter for the Humboldt Fire Department.

by DANNY WADE  |  Senior Editor

The Humboldt City Board tackled a long agenda last week during their March 27 meeting. Items included voting on a fire chief (see related article), an ordinance to amend zoning to allow apartments in B-3 zoning, an ordinance to allow beer sales in the same B-3 zone, approving a beer permit in the B-3 zone, revoking beer permits of four locations, hiring a police officer and hiring three workers for the street department.

But one of the biggest items on the agenda made history for the city of Humboldt—hiring the first-ever female firefighter for the Humboldt Fire Department.

Before the city board meeting, a public hearing was held on the two ordinances, which would be voted on during regular city board meeting. Mayor Marvin Sikes opened the floor to anyone for comments or concerns. No on spoke up, so the mayor closed the public hearing.

Later in the meeting, the board received a recommendation from Acting Fire Chief Leroy Kail to hire Briyona Batchelor as a firefighter for the Humboldt Fire Department. In his letter to the board, Chief Kail stated there were applications reviewed for employment with HFD and Batchelor met or exceeded the requirements in the department’s hiring process.

Mayor Marvin Sikes asked Batchelor if she was ready to become a firefighter. Batchelor responded with an exuberant, “Yes sir!”

This brought a round of applause from the large crowd attending the meeting.

Alderman Leon McNeal motioned to approve hiring Batchelor, which was seconded by Alderwoman Julie Jones-Coleman. The hiring was approved 4-0 with Aldermen Monte Johnson and Alderwoman Tammie

Porter voting to approve. Alderman Shane Lynch did not attend the meeting.

In other city board action:

•The second reading of Ordinance 2023-02 was brought to the table. The ordinance amended the zoning ordinance of the city of Humboldt to allow apartments upon certain conditions in B-3 (central business) districts.

Some of the criteria of the zoning amendment state that the apartment shall be located above the ground floor or in the rear of a commercial, service or manufacturing building. Ground floor apartments cannot occupy more than 35-percent of the floor’s square footage. There must be adequate living space with a separate entrance. The character of the building structure shall not be changed by the addition.

The second reading of the ordinance was approved unanimously.

•Ordinance 2023-03 was presented for its second reading. This ordinance would make changes to Chapter 2 of Title 8 of the Humboldt Municipal Code dealing with guidelines for selling beer.

The original code does not allow beer sales for consumption on the premises located within 500 ft. of public parks, public playgrounds, schools or churches. This provision does not apply to properties located in B-3 zones after the approval of the ordinance to amend zoning code.

The ordinance passed the second reading and was adopted.

•With the passage of the zoning amendment, Mayor Sikes presented a beer permit application from Thomas Lee Sands, owner of Magnolia Manor and Chapel. The application is for onsite consumption.

Humboldt Police Chief Reynard Buchanan performed all of the background checks and other information, and found nothing that would prohibit him from being eligible for a beer permit.

Mayor Sikes asked if the beer license would be under Lee’s name or under both Lee and his wife, Lynn’s name. Lynn, who was also attending the meeting, said it could be either way—however the city needs it to be. She asked if it would actually be under Magnolia Manor and Chapel.

Attorney Randy Camp asked the couple if this was the actual name of their business. Mr. Sands said the business name is Magnolia Manor and Chapel LLC.

Camp said for the couple’s liability protection, the “LLC” should be on the application.

Alderwoman Porter asked if there was some type of waiting period since the board just passed the ordinance allowing the location to sell beer. Camp replied that once the board approved the first and second reading, the ordinance was adopted immediately.

McNeal was hesitant of approving the beer permit since changes needed to be made on the application.

Sands reminded the board that this exact procedure happened a few weeks ago when two stores that were sold needed to get new beer permits and wording was added to the application. Both were approved by the board and issued beer permits the next day with those changes being made.

McNeal wanted the board to postpone their vote until changes to the original application were made.

Sands reiterated that he was asking the board to do the exact same thing they did for the two previous beer permits that needed updating.

Jones-Coleman motioned to amend their application with the changes, which was seconded by Alderman Johnson. The beer permit was unanimously approved.

•With one new beer license approved, three other businesses were potentially having their beer licenses revoked for selling beer to minors. The Humboldt Police Department received information that Valero Gas Station, Tony Montana’s and Stop N’ Shop had sold beer to minors. The 28th Judicial Violent Crimes & Drug Task Force conducted operations with controlled buys to three stores that led to three clerks being charged with selling alcohol to minors.

It was also noted that a clerk at Southside Deli had also been charged with selling alcohol to minors.

Since the city board is also the beer board, it was up to them whether or not to revoke these businesses’ beer licenses.

McNeal recommended turning this over to attorney Camp to determine what decisions are made.

Mayor Sikes agreed. He also noted some of the clerks’ cases had been dismissed in court.

Camp said the general sessions court has the duty to judicial legal cases, but the city has the authority to issue and revoke beer licenses. Camp read from the city’s

NEW POLICE OFFICER – Humboldt Chief of Police Reynard Buchanan (left) welcomes policeman Zachary Smith to the police force. The city board voted to hire Smith as an officer with the Humboldt Police Department.

municipal code that states businesses selling beer to minors shall have their licenses revoked and other penalties. He continued reading the code, saying on the first offense, the license shall be revoked and the owner may reapply in 30 days.

Camp told the board that the city does not find anyone guilty and the code stated the license shall be revoked. In his legal opinion, that was the only option the board had.

Mayor Sikes said that the beer board has responsibilities and obligations to the citizens of Humboldt.

Camp read another paragraph from the municipal code that clearly states the licenses to be revoked.

The board unanimously voted to suspend the beer permits for all four businesses.

•The board approved hiring Zachary Smith as a new police officer upon a request from Chief Buchanan.

•The board voted to hire David Hankins, Brian Champion and Franko Beard for the street department at the request of Public Works supervisor, Willie Reed. It was noted that Beard had previously work for the street department and was welcomed back.

                                                                                                                                     •The board approved the resignation of firefighter Timothy Strnad.

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