A local group opposing the May 6 countywide alcohol sales referendum quite literally laid out their case against the matter at this week’s Board of Commissioners meeting.
Turkey Council member Tony Moore and Dr. Larry Watts, co-chairmen of Sampson Citizens for the Prevention of Countywide Alcohol Sales, spoke briefly to the board.
“We have the utmost respect for the county commissioners of this county, but we do feel like you guys have made a terrible lapse in judgment in what we’re endeavoring to do in our county,” Moore said. “We’re not coming at this from the standpoint of taking alcohol out of our county. It’s here. However, we are saying enough is enough.”
Moore read from two approved resolutions in Turkey and Salemburg that denounced alcohol density, stating that more outlets would mean more consumption and alcohol abuse, including from an underage population.
The board voted previously to put the matter to voters on the May 6 ballot as to whether to permit or oppose off-premises sales of both malt beverages and unfortified wine. Commissioners 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.
While commissioners have shared their hopes of the revenue assistance the county would receive as a result, the decision is is left up to the public. Those in opposition to the measure said alcohol is already available in several of the county’s municipalities and does not have to be more accessible, which could lead to more problems.
In information cited by Moore, the Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina reports that for every $1 generated in tax revenue from alcohol sales in the state, there is a corresponding expenditure of $21.42 to “clean up the mess that alcohol makes.”
Providing a visual aid, Moore laid out $10 in rolls of nickels on the floor in front of commissioners. He then laid out stacks of dollar bills.
“For every $10 (of revenue), we have $214 that is being spent in alcohol-related services,” said Moore. “That doesn’t make sense. When we add more alcohol outlets across the county, we are going to have to have more law enforcement and alcohol-related services. I know it’s on the ballot, but I think we’re making a bad decision.”
While Clinton, Roseboro, Garland and Newton Grove currently have alcoholic beverage sales, and operate ABC stores, Turkey, 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.
Town boards in Turkey and Salemburg expressed their unanimous opposition to countywide sales of beer and wine within days of each other last month, both adopting resolutions to that effect.
“We would just like to say we do hope and pray, in all due respect to you guys, that these referendum fails in our county,” Moore said.
Later in the same meeting, Commissioner Albert Kirby addressed the group’s concerns, conceding it was a “hot issue” about which commissioners and staff had received many calls.
“As commissioners, we’re in a tough situation to be in. We’re in the unfortunate position of having to give the appearance that we are for alcohol, so to speak. We are in the uncomfortable position of advocating for positive revenue that could come into the county,” Kirby noted.
At the same time, beer and wine is already all over the county, whether it is sold in specific areas or not.
“We’re not voting for it,” he said. “We’re just saying let’s let the individual decide on whether or not you want to have that revenue stream coming in.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.