Augusta commissioners favor alcohol sales vote

Commissioners open to election

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Although the earliest it could reach voters is Nov. 8, most Augusta Commission members already are receptive to putting the question of Sunday retail alcohol sales before them.

Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

"Absolutely; I think it's each individual's right to be able to decide," Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said.

Senate Bill 10, approved by the Georgia House and Senate, awaits Gov. Nathan Deal's signature for local governments to place the question on a ballot for voters.

In Augusta, the question will be whether retailers may sell beer, wine and distilled spirits on Sundays between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

"Put it before the voters, and let them decide," District 4 Commissioner Joe Jackson said.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Matt Aitken, Corey Johnson and Grady Smith also said they would vote to put the question on a ballot.

"There will be varied opinions about it, but we're all grown people and each should make his own decision about what's right or wrong," Smith said. "Let's do what the majority wants to do. That's how this country was set up." Said Johnson: "I'm not lobbying for it, but it's just an opportunity to deal with some of the deficits, especially at the state level."

Said Aitken: "When you look at the deficits that we and other communities face, this may be a way to fund them."

Not every commissioner reached said he had made up his mind. Super District 9 Commissioner J.R. Hatney, who routinely abstains from voting on alcohol license applications, said, "From my perspective, grocery stores shouldn't be allowed to sell alcohol, because children go in there."

Still, asked whether Augusta voters should choose whether retailers may sell alcohol on Sundays, Hatney said, "With things of that magnitude, voters should be given the opportunity to decide."

District 8 Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he had not reached a decision.

If the measure passes in Augusta, at least 400 businesses would have the option to be open and sell alcohol. Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman said 200 retailers now hold licenses to sell package beer, 169 to sell wine and 34 to sell liquor.

The only place to purchase an alcoholic beverage on Sundays in Augusta is in a restaurant, and 102 restaurants hold the $1,210 Sunday sales license, he said.

Consumers may drive to Aiken, which holds a special South Carolina permit allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell alcohol on Sunday.

Despite the potential for added sales, some Augusta retailers aren't thrilled with the prospect of being open.

"To me, Sunday is like a family day," said Phillip Song, the owner of Superstar Wine & Spirits on Deans Bridge Road. "I'd like to keep it that way."

Still, if neighboring package stores remain open, Song said, he would be forced to do the same. He and the approximately 16 members of the Augusta-based Korean Liquor Association will take up the issue at their next meeting.

During 2011, which is not an election year, Richmond County can't schedule an election on a standalone ballot question until Nov. 8, said Travis Doss, the Board of Elections' assistant director.

After Nov. 8, the next opportunity will be during the Presidential Preference Primary in February or March, Doss said.

The cost to taxpayers to open Augusta-Richmond County's 52 polling places is at least $80,000, Elections Director Lynn Bailey said.

"I don't think we should spend $80,000 to have an alcohol sales referendum," said Brigham, who suggested placing the vote with next year's presidential primary.

Comments (17) Add comment
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mike71345
75
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mike71345 04/16/11 - 03:30 am
0
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Why not let Richmond County's

Why not let Richmond County's elected representatives decide the issue? The Commission looks to be running from making a decision again. (Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.)
"There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."
Classic politicians.

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 04/16/11 - 04:22 am
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My...my...my...making it

My...my...my...making it harder for poor children to get a college education but giving them one more day to get drunk...hmmmm

Riverman1
110787
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Riverman1 04/16/11 - 05:40 am
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Selling alcohol on Sunday is

Selling alcohol on Sunday is as benign as selling a two scoop ice cream sundae on Sunday.

But this thing about the cost of elections has always made me wonder. $80,000??? That sounds like BS unless election officials are paid outrageous overtime or something. I mean exactly what are the costs? The buildings are free. Volunteers work there. I don't get it.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 04/16/11 - 07:17 am
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Mike, the implementation of

Mike, the implementation of Sunday sales has to me initiated by a vote of the people. Thats how the law was written.

justthefacts
31313
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justthefacts 04/16/11 - 07:36 am
0
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River, you are questioning

River, you are questioning the $80K? You do realize the gov't is involved...right?

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/16/11 - 08:27 am
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lynn bailey of the board of

lynn bailey of the board of elections gets 76k. that's about as much as the mayor! there are seven peeps in the dept. sounds like a good job.

mike71345
75
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mike71345 04/16/11 - 08:28 am
0
0
Taylor, you're right–it looks

Taylor, you're right–it looks like no politician in all of Georgia wants to go on record over this issue.
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MIOVHO0.htm
'House sponsor, Republican state Rep. Roger Williams said the legislation is about local control.
"It's about fairness," the Dalton Republican said. "It's not about religion. It's not about drinking."
"It's about letting your people back home express their views."
State Rep. Len Walker, a Loganville Republican, said that by that logic, most everything lawmakers consider should be decided at the ballot box.
"Why don't we extend the sanctity of local control to every measure we consider in this House of Representatives?" Walker said. "It may very well be that we want to extend the sanctity of local control when we don't have the courage to make a decision."'

Riverman1
110787
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Riverman1 04/16/11 - 09:27 am
0
0
Mary Dits, if she makes that

Mary Dits, if she makes that much and they have that many employees, I wonder if they add up all their salaries and divide by the number of elections to determine the cost? I'd like to see the details of that $80,000.

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/16/11 - 09:31 am
0
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me too riverman. it doesn't

me too riverman. it doesn't seem like we're paying them to keep costs down. they throw?lots of elections here! ritzy ones.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 04/16/11 - 09:46 am
0
0
Well, if you count temp help,

Well, if you count temp help, it gets more expensive. Plus, many of these elections are held in churches, which Im pretty sure are compensated. Plus, with early voting, mailing of ballots, and the fact that voting lasts a month now, im surprised it isnt more.

Frank I
1208
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Frank I 04/16/11 - 10:19 am
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cost to print all the forms

cost to print all the forms forms, all the little plastic cards, electricity for the ballot machines....

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/16/11 - 12:42 pm
0
0
we pay churches but not

we pay churches but not schools? could we do all the voting in schools then? could we have more votes held on the same day? is there a computer program that might handle this better than the board of elections since we like closing departments?

Riverman1
110787
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Riverman1 04/16/11 - 12:53 pm
0
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I was thinking about that,

I was thinking about that, too. How much are these churches paid? Printing forms cost THAT much? I'd like to see a breakdown of the expenses and see if we couldn't do this much cheaper. If we are paying Lynn Bailey and her staff THAT much and we only have elections a few days a year, surely they can figure ways to save.

Sweet son
13657
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Sweet son 04/16/11 - 01:02 pm
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I have to admit that I don't

I have to admit that I don't know if this decision will be the only thing on a ballot. Are there not other issues to be voted on in November? If not, why not place it on a ballot with some other election. Will the tax revenue ofset the cost of a single issue election? Help me? If I missed something in the comments, I apologize.

Sweet son
13657
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Sweet son 04/16/11 - 01:03 pm
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Will tax revenues collected

Will tax revenues collected ofset the cost of the election?

clumber
43
Points
clumber 04/16/11 - 05:15 pm
0
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And none of the hypocrites

And none of the hypocrites who drink on Sunday would allow the sale of what they drink on Sunday? Shop early. The law as such has always been unconstitutional as the sale on Sunday is obviously a religious preference, not to be perpetuated nor endorsed by the government.

PART_TIME_PUNDIT
1
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PART_TIME_PUNDIT 04/16/11 - 11:23 pm
0
0
RIVERMAN FOR MAYOR!

RIVERMAN FOR MAYOR!

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