Neighbors trying again to make Sharp County wet - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Neighbors trying again to make Sharp County wet

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – After two failed attempts, neighbors are hoping the third time’s the charm to make Sharp County ‘wet.’

Volunteers with the group Save Energy, Reap Taxes (SERT) have once again been collecting signatures so that voters can decide whether or not to allow alcohol sales locally.

Despite setbacks in 2008 and 2010, Ruth Reynolds says this is SERT’s last attempt to put the power in the voters’ hands.

“Should the county stay dry, or should it go wet?” Reynolds said simply. “We feel very strongly that people should have the right to vote, and this is very controversial of course.”

Reynolds helped SERT circulate petitions in 2008, but the court invalidated a number of signatures and prevented the issue from appearing on the ballot. The misfortune continued in 2010 when the group missed the filing deadline to submit petitions.

“I’ve had people who signed last time refuse this time and vice versa,” Reynolds said. “Sometimes they’ll say I don’t like the way you people were treated, and I’m going to sign this time just because of that.”

With this year’s deadline ingrained in her mind, Reynolds has driven around Sharp County for the past few months to collect petitions from 38 percent of the registered voters. That equals about 4,100 signatures, and, so far, Reynolds has exceeded that amount. She, however, has no plans to stop knocking on more doors to get even more voters to sign.

“There is an element of danger in this too,” Reynolds explained. “After all, you’re knocking on every door, and you don’t know who’s behind that door. This is a big concern for my husband, I can tell you that. He’s really been worried.”

The possibility of getting the issue on the November ballot, though, propels her forward. Reynolds says making Sharp County wet would ultimately benefit the environment.

“For me it will be worth it if we succeed because we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted here in Sharp County,” Reynolds noted, “just by the fact that people can go locally and buy their alcoholic beverages.”

People like Jerry Adams can see the economic advantages of allowing alcohol sales locally.

“We’ve been dry over 60 years,” said Adams, a city councilman in Cherokee Village. “I think it’s time for a change. We need all the revenue we can get in our county because we are a poor county.”

Adams envisions the tax revenue from alcohol sales going toward constructing a hospital in Sharp County or improving local police and fire protection. The opposition, however, has voiced its concerns loudly. Many worry young people will abuse alcohol more readily, which will lead to more crime in the communities.

Adams is quick to allay those fears, saying he’s found statistics showing more accidents occur in dry counties because of people commuting to get their alcohol.  

“If you want to buy alcohol, we’re forced to drive to Missouri and spend our money in Missouri,” Adams said. “I’d much rather have all our Sharp County dollars spent in Sharp County.”

Ruth Reynolds will have to check with the Sharp County clerk on June 1 to verify the official number of signatures needed to appear on the ballot. SERT will then have until August 6 to file the petitions.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.

 

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