By Bobbie Poynter
It’s been three years since a petition was circulated to allow alcohol sales in Barbourville.
On Wednesday, Jan. 28, a new petition began circulating around Barbourville saying
“We the undersigned registered voters hereby petition for election on the following question: ‘Are you in favor of the sale of Alcoholic Beverages in Barbourville?’ KRS 242.020”
Those signing the petition are not necessarily asking for alcohol sales in Barbourville, only that an election to that effect be held.
Supporters of alcohol sales Barbourville have various reasons to request the local option election.
According to trailsrus.com, an independent research website, who obtained its information from the KSP Traffic Accidents Facts Report, studies showed that cities across Kentucky who opened their towns to alcohol sales actually saw a decrease in their reported drunk driving rates.
Local residents have their own take on why they feel Barbourville should have alcohol sales.
“The legal sale of alcohol will help get rid of the bootleggers in the area, making it a lot harder for kids to buy alcohol,” said resident Scot Clouse.
Clouse added another plus would be the added taxable income from the alcohol revenue the city would receive from alcohol sales.
“Part of the revenue can go to the police department,” he said, “and right now they need the money.”
Tabatha Hoffman, of the Clanes Nest community, sees the advent of alcohol sales in Barbourville as a plus for everyone.
“Many people like to go to a nice restaurant and have a drink with their meal,” said Hoffman. Right now, Corbin and London are getting all those tax revenue benefits. I’m not saying everyone going out to eat has to have a drink with their meal, but it would be nice just to have that option. Besides, Barbourville could sure use the additional revenue for our city schools and our police department.”
Not everyone is ready to bring alcohol sales into Barbourville.
Leonard Lester, pastor of First Advent Christian Church in Barbourville, is in no hurry to see Barbourville accept alcohol sales.
“It’s sad that we have to fight this battle again so soon,” said Lester. “We’ve look at the issues before, and this is a bad deal for our community. Revenue that comes off this has to be used for policing the effects of bring alcohol into our community. What does that tell you about how good an option this is for our community? A family-friendly community shouldn’t have to fight this battle. Our festivals bring families consistently into our community to enjoy a safe friendly environment.
“When alcohol is introduced too many times, fear comes with it and rightfully so, because people’s judgment and emotions, their inhibitions are negatively affected by alcohol and it changes the atmosphere. Police have to be brought in to control people who are under the influence and who have gotten stirred up for whatever reason. Our community is not totally perfect, but it is one of the top places in our region. We are unique that we don’t have alcohol and that makes it better, not worse.”
“I am a parent of a teenager, and I have read the latest statistics from the CDC,” said local resident Steve Smith, “They show that 11 percent of alcohol is consumed by people under 21. It also shows that 90 percent of that number is actively engaged in binge drinking. The Knox County Health Department says we are one of the leading counties in the state, as well as the country, for teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
So what I see is a recipe for disaster. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money, and I am confident this will be defeated once again.”
KRS 242.020 states that in order for the petition to go through, it will need signatures equal to 25 percent of the qualified voters in the 2014 regular election or, according to Mike Corey, Knox County Clerk, approximately 600 signatures.
The last time alcohol a sales petition was put to the vote was Feb. 7, 2012. The vote passed in Corbin, but failed in Barbourville by 104 votes.
“The petition three years ago had huge support from both sides,” said Barbourville Mayor David Thompson, “but, ultimately, it was defeated by a significant number of votes. The voters now have had a couple of years to look at what has happened in our surrounding towns, and I think it’s the right way to do it. Let the voters make the decision.
“Lots of scenarios were brought up last time about how it would be if it was or was not wet. Now everyone has had the chance to see how it has worked in the towns that passed it, and they can now decide whether they still feel the same way they did three years ago, or if this time they feel it should pass.”
Mayor Thompson says he is glad the voters are once again getting the chance to make a choice.
“I think it’s a choice that should be left up to the voters,” he said. “A few years ago, I didn’t hear anybody complain. It was voted on, defeated, and people went on with their lives. I don’t expect any less this time.”
By law, petitioners have six months to file from the date the petition was first signed on Jan. 28. The county then has no earlier than 60 days or no later than 90 days after the petition was filed to hold a local option election, paid for by the Fiscal Court, which, according to Ed Tye, Knox County Treasurer, in 2012 amounted to around $6,500. The only stipulation is that the election cannot be scheduled 30 days before or following a regular election. )The 2015 regular election is Nov. 3.) If the petitioners do not specify a date, the Judge Executive will designate a date for the election.
To date, no attorney of record has been retained to represent the originators of the petition.
Petitions can be found in local businesses throughout Barbourville.