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County looks to put alcohol questions on ballot

POSTED: September 9, 2011 12:08 a.m.

Effingham County commissioners are hoping to ask voters early next year if they want to approve Sunday sales of beer and wine by the package — and sales of liquor by the drink.

Commissioners opted not to pass a resolution Tuesday night asking for the questions to be placed on the presidential preference primary ballot. Instead, they likely now will adopt an ordinance calling for the Sunday package sales of beer and wine and sales of liquor by the drink and perhaps even package sales of distilled spirits.

"I’d like to see all three items come to a vote," said Commissioner Phil Kieffer.

Said Commissioner Vera Jones: "I say while we let them vote, let them vote."

County Administrator David Crawley said he was not sure if state law would allow for sales of distilled spirits by the package on Sundays, but County Attorney Eric Gotwalt said they would prepare a third ordinance to address the issue.

Commissioner Reggie Loper questioned if that measure would pass.

"It would pass probably quicker with just the two of them on there," he said.

If approved by a referendum, the measures would go into effect the Sunday following the vote.

The proposals would be separate questions on the ballot, Crawley said, and the county does have some time to prepare the ordinances and the ballots to go before the voters. Gotwalt also said there is time to prepare a pre-clearance application with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The original question, the package sales of beer and wine on Sundays, would make those effective hours of sale from 12:30-11:30 p.m., if approved.

Gotwalt said the current ordinance prohibits package sales on Sundays and suggested another ordinance would be the best path.

"In order to amend that ordinance, you need to do it with the same formalities, i.e. an ordinance, as opposed to a resolution," he said. "The statute actually provides an alternative, either/or. But since you have an ordinance in place, I recommend using the ordinance form."

Voters across the county approved sales of liquor by the drink in a ballot measure that was held in conjunction with the February 2008 presidential primary. Liquor by the drink sales were approved by 58 percent of the more than 12,300 votes cast across the county.

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