TURKEY — The Turkey Town Council showed its unanimous opposition to countywide sales of beer and wine Tuesday night, adopting a resolution urging the Sampson Board of Commissioners to reconsider its stance on the issue and imploring the county electorate to vote against an alcohol referendum on the May 6 ballot.
“It’s not a matter of just being against alcohol, but economically speaking we just don’t feel like it’s a good fit for the county nor would it be the panacea they are looking for,” said the Rev. Tony Moore, a Turkey Council member and co-chair of the recently organized Sampson Citizens for the Prevention of Countywide Alcohol Sales. “Just the sheer economics does not make apparent good common sense, in all due respect to our county commissioners. It’s nothing personal, I just think they’re making a bad choice.”
The county commissioners voted unanimously last month to place a countywide alcohol referendum on the ballot as part of the May 6 primary election. Earlier this month, the board narrowed options to just off-premises sales of malt beverages and unfortified wine. Commissioners have touted the move as a way to drum up more tax revenue, as well as another avenue for local businesses — notably retail businesses such as grocery and convenience stores — to make more money.
Some commissioners said, should the referendum prove successful, on-premises sales (restaurants) could be next. Moore and others said they do not see the sales as feasible for the county. Alcohol is available in several of the county’s municipalities and does not have to be more accessible, which could lead to more problems, he noted.
“Our law enforcement is already pushed to the max with (the resources) they have to work with, but if we have alcohol sales countywide in the largest land mass county in the state, then we are potentially going to need more law enforcement with more issues and problems,” Moore asserted. “We might take in more money on one side, but we’re going to put out a lot more on the other.”
Moore used to be a minister in this community and now pastors in Wilson, but still lives in Turkey, where he owns a business in addition to serving on the town board. He said he does not want to see Turkey be the site of alcohol sales.
Clinton, Roseboro, Garland and Newton Grove currently have alcoholic beverage sales, and operate ABC stores. However, Turkey,along with Salemburg, Harrells and Autryville, do not currently permit such sales, and would be the most impacted towns should the referendum pass as they will be stripped of their “dry” status.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the communities, but I know in Turkey we definitely don’t want to see it there. It’s close enough to us already,” Moore said. “Turkey was incorporated in 1913, so it’s been incorporated for a little over 100 years now, and (alcohol sales have) not been there — and we’d sure like to see it stay out for a while longer. If it does pass, it will be accessible in those areas, whether we want it or not. That is a big point of contention for us. We do not want it in Turkey, nor do we think it’s a good economic decision for our whole county.”
Moore cited Sampson’s “alcohol outlet density,” which would increase should the referendum pass. Not only will the move not fill the county’s coffers, he noted, it would serve only to negatively impact the community, by way of dangerous consumption levels and various other alcohol-related problems that would exacerbate matters.
“… The social costs of alcohol abuse always far outweigh any gains from the sales or accessibility of alcohol, and that prosperity is neither to ultimately be decided by the presence or lack thereof, but instead upon the genius, ingenuity and industriousness of the people of Sampson County,” the Turkey resolution states.
“You’re going to have alcohol-related problems all over because it is accessible (in certain areas),” Moore remarked, “but that doesn’t mean we need to make it easily accessible all up and down our county roadways, to potentially lead to more and more problems related to alcohol.”
The town’s approved resolution also notes an “underage drinking epidemic” currently costing the state approximately $1.5 billion annually. Having such a law locally to broaden beer and wine sales could make it easier for Sampson’s youth to obtain alcohol, putting them at greater risks of “alcohol dependence, academic failure, illicit drug use, youth violence, traffic crashes, property crime, unintentional injury and risky sex,” it states.
The town of Turkey’s passed resolution came exactly a week after a March 11 meeting at which more than a dozen churches, along with community leaders, organized the Sampson Citizens for the Prevention of Countywide Alcohol Sales. At that meeting, Moore and Dr. Larry Watts were selected as co-chairmen of the referendum committee, the Rev. Joseph Tew was chosen as the committee secretary and the Rev. Marcus Becton as the committee’s treasurer.
That first meeting was about gauging interest and organizing. With that interest very present, the committee is holding a motivational rally on Tuesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at Clinton Community Church (formerly Clinton Pentecostal Holiness).
Moore said he was not sure about the feelings of those in Harrells and Autryville, but noted “a definite groundswell of individuals in opposition” to the referendum in Turkey and Salemburg. Turkey’s board-approved resolution urged the town’s residents to give their assistance, as well as resources, in support of the referendum committee’s efforts.
It is a worthy fight, Moore said, calling alcohol “the nation’s number one drug.”
“People might not look at it that way, but why should we want to fund our county coffers by a vice? That’s never a good idea,” the pastor remarked, urging attendance at Tuesday’s rally. “Everyone is welcome. We would encourage people, particularly in opposition of this effort, to come. We do hope that people all across our county will come and show support for this endeavor.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.