May 4, 2012 at 3:50 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 1:59 AM
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 ornot to allow alcohol sales locally.
Despite setbacks in 2008 and 2010, Ruth Reynolds says thisis SERT’s last attempt to put the power in the voters’ hands.
“Should the county stay dry, or should it go wet?” Reynolds saidsimply. “We feel very strongly that people should have the right to vote, andthis is very controversial of course.”
Reynolds helped SERT circulate petitions in 2008, but thecourt invalidated a number of signatures and prevented the issue from appearingon the ballot. The misfortune continued in 2010 when the group missed thefiling deadline to submit petitions.
“I’ve had people who signed last time refuse this time andvice versa,” Reynolds said. “Sometimes they’ll say I don’t like the way youpeople were treated, and I’m going to sign this time just because of that.”
With this year’s deadline ingrained in her mind, Reynoldshas driven around Sharp County for the past few months to collect petitionsfrom 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 tostop knocking on more doors to get even more voters to sign.
“There is an element of danger in this too,” Reynoldsexplained. “After all, you’re knocking on every door, and you don’t know who’sbehind that door. This is a big concern for my husband, I can tell you that. He’sreally been worried.”
The possibility of getting the issue on the November ballot,though, propels her forward. Reynolds says making Sharp County wet would ultimatelybenefit the environment.
“For me it will be worth it if we succeed because we canreduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted here in Sharp County,”Reynolds noted, “just by the fact that people can go locally and buy theiralcoholic beverages.”
People like Jerry Adams can see the economic advantages ofallowing alcohol sales locally.
“We’ve been dry over 60 years,” said Adams, a citycouncilman in Cherokee Village. “I think it’s time for a change. We need allthe revenue we can get in our county because we are a poor county.”
Adams envisions the tax revenue from alcohol sales goingtoward constructing a hospital in Sharp County or improving local police andfire protection. The opposition, however, has voiced its concerns loudly. Manyworry young people will abuse alcohol more readily, which will lead to morecrime in the communities.
Adams is quick to allay those fears, saying he’s foundstatistics showing more accidents occur in dry counties because of peoplecommuting to get their alcohol.
“If you want to buy alcohol, we’re forced to drive toMissouri and spend our money in Missouri,” Adams said. “I’d much rather haveall our Sharp County dollars spent in Sharp County.”
Ruth Reynolds will have to check with the Sharp County clerkon June 1 to verify the official number of signatures needed to appear on theballot. SERT will then have until August 6 to file the petitions.