Region 8 county may get chance to choose booze

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

ASH FLAT, AR (KAIT) – Supporters of making Sharp County wet told Region 8 News Wednesday it believes it has the number of signatures needed to get a wet/dry vote on the ballot in November. According to Ruth Reynolds with Save Energy, Reap Taxes, more than 38% of registered voters in Sharp County have signed a petition to vote on the measure later this year.

"Their primary reason was the taxation whereas I'm more interested in the climate and fossil fuel savings," said Reynolds. "This has to do with the fact that we're going to run out of fossil fuels of all kinds at some point in time."

Reynolds said most of her supporters suggest the county would earn several thousands of dollars in revenue lost to other counties and the state of Missouri. Sharp County is surrounded by counties that do not allow the sale of alcohol.

"The idea is to have everything local that you can possibly have," said Reynolds. "I would like to see someone making beer here in this county or wine."

In 2008, Reynolds tried to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot, but 210 signatures were thrown out by a judge because some voters had deceased or moved.

"You can't do any of those things if you're tied down with this dry county law, so we have to get rid of that so that we can move forward," said Reynolds.

Reynolds said she wants to conserve fossil fuels, which she said is the cause of global warming.

"I guess I would feel guilty if I didn't try to do something about global warming," said Reynolds. "Our whole civilization is going to crumble if we don't conserve our fossil fuels and use them very judiciously to get ourselves into the renewable energy era."

"I think we're all for a clean environment. That's a whole issue that caused people to move here, but I really don't think that the amount of traffic going to Missouri or wherever to get alcohol is going to be any more than say going to south of Memphis to do gambling," said Kenneth Coker, Chairman of the Coalition for the Future of Sharp County. "I feel like a lot of the issues that they're presenting today, the economic, the ecological and some of the other issues are simply smokescreens. Our true feeling is that this is all about convenience."

"When you try to compare a wet county to a dry county, you can't really pin anything down that there's a correlation between this and that," said Reynolds.

"The quality of life here is just tremendous and we'd like to keep it the way it is," said Coker.

Coker told Region 8 News one of his concerns is that public safety would be threatened. Coker believes the amount of money raised in alcohol taxes would not offset the problems associated with drinking.

"Our main issue is with the most innocent among us. We feel that if alcohol is convenient, that it's going to cause a lot of issues as far as domestic violence and traffic problems," said Coker. "We feel that everyone that moved here moved here knowing that this is a dry county, and our main concern is that we don't want to breach the trust with people that came here with families."

Coker said his group offered to discuss a shuttle service to bus people who wanted to purchase alcohol out of town. He said his opposition denied that discussion.

"It sounds good but the bottom line is people will regret that they've changed this thing about our county," said Coker. "When family's choose to come to an area, one of the issues they consider is the fact whether alcohol is convenient to the citizenry or not."

Coker and Reynolds said the issue will most likely go to the ballot box for voters to decide on in November.

"We'll become like Missouri because people from the surrounding counties would come here to get their alcohol," said Coker. "Our feeling is that it's going to be a lot more expensive for our citizens then it is any sort of boom in the economy."

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