Suspension of blue law gains support

AIKEN --- Aiken County Council members gave initial approval to a proposal Tuesday night that would suspend a state law forbidding some commercial purchases on Sunday mornings.

 

The issue must be approved on two more readings before being adopted, with the next reading and public hearing scheduled for the council's July 21 meeting.

County officials say they have the authority to suspend the state law for their county, to include cities.

Some Aiken County stores have to wait until 1:30 p.m. Sunday to sell certain items. An assistant manager of the Wal-Mart on Whiskey Road in Aiken who wouldn't give her name said Tuesday that the store is allowed to sell only food, health and beauty products, pet food and some sporting good items before 1:30 p.m. Sundays.

County Councilman Chuck Smith is sponsoring the repeal of the Sunday restriction in Aiken County, calling it an "old, antiquated law" that hurts sales tax collections.

"Gas stations can sell anything, yet you go to Wal-Mart in the morning (on Sunday) and you can't buy an umbrella," he said, adding, "The way we shop in today's society is different from the way it was 10 years ago."

He noted how customers simply go across the river to Georgia for purchases on Sunday mornings or do their shopping online. Other council members said some other stores in the county, such as Lowe's, can't open their doors on Sundays until after 1:30 p.m.

"The time has come and gone for that law," Mr. Smith said, noting that there's a need for more sales tax dollars to help county schools in a time of cutbacks.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

IN OTHER BUSINESS: BUDGET ADOPTED

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, the council adopted its 2009-10 fiscal year budget, to include an amendment that reduces by 20 percent, or $94,000, the amount the county provides in aid to the cities of Aiken and North Augusta.

Some council members had supported just a 10 percent cut, but with the county facing its own belt tightening, the council ultimately approved the 20 percent reduction, with Councilmen Willar Hightower and Chuck Smith opposed.

The approved budget, which takes effect July 1 and calls for no millage increase, also was amended to include $100,000 for a state and federal "revenue consultant."

This idea was presented during a previous council meeting in which Mr. Smith said the county needed a group to lobby on its behalf to attract more federal funds to the area.