MOULTRIE -- Confusion brought a halt Tuesday to the punishment of store owners whose employees sold alcohol to a minor during a police operation in July.

The owners of 12 stores appeared before Moultrie City Council Tuesday night, and five were sentenced before an issue arose that halted the proceedings.

The council had in its agenda that stores without training from the Moultrie Responsible Vendors Association (MRVA) would face a $2,000 fine, mandatory training from the MRVA and suspension of their liquor license for 60 days. The store owners, however, said they were provided information from MRVA stating they would face the $2,000 fine or suspension of their license.

After the matter was brought before the council, City Attorney Mickey Waller and City Manager Bob Hopkins left the council chambers to further examine the city ordinance. During their absence, mayor pro tem Betty Haggins concluded the other matters before the council.

When Hopkins and Waller returned to the chambers, Hopkins recommended the sentencing be halted until the city ordinance could be better clarified. The recommendation would also negate the sentencing of five store owners who had already been before the council.

The present members of the council unanimously approved the recommendation and said they intend to review the matter and hold hearings at a future city council meeting.

Waller said the ordinance in the agenda and at the city's Web site was originally written in 1997, and it is listed as the current ordinance for the city. It was revised and re-numbered in 1999, and was reworded in 2000 for penalties against store employees. The original 1997 ordinance, however, was not changed for store owners at all during the revision process.

The suspension of the sentencing process for store owners will be revisited and brought back before the council once everyone knows what they are facing.

"We want to make sure everyone is on the same page," Waller said.

Other matters approved by the council included:

- Holding a public hearing and approving an application from Rick Layfield and Michael Massey to construct a rental pool store/concrete plant/storage facility at 450 Georgia Highway 33 South;

- Awarding a contract extension between the city and Cornerstone Government Affairs, LLC.;

- Awarding the low bids for 400 gallons of odorant and new odorizer, cable supplies for CNS Television, a total of 1750 KVA three-phase padmount transformers, steel pipe, a chipper machine, fitness equipment for the Moultrie Police Department, and curb and side repair;

- Allowing the Colquitt County Habitat for Humanity to use Willie B. Withers Auditorium rent-free for an appearance by Ruth Bell Graham on Jan. 25, 2005, and;

- Changing the company that prints and mails city utility bills from the city of Thomasville to Arista Information Systems, Inc., in Duluth.

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