County commission debates Sunday alcohol sales referendum

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

With the January session of the Alabama legislature approaching, the county commission is beginning the process to potentially piggyback off of the City of Troy and allow Sunday alcohol sales countywide.

The first step in that process is to approve a resolution asking Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Pike, to introduce a local bill in the State House of Representatives that would give the commission power to either hold a referendum on the issue or vote on it themselves.

District 6 commissioner Russell Johnson said he won’t support it if the people of Pike County aren’t given the chance to vote.

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“I think the city set the precedent that this is a referendum issue,” Johnson said. “My fear is that this could set a precedent of ramming thing down people’s throats. We’re mandated to have a jail, so we made the tough decision to treat that as a business decision that we had to take care of, but we’re not mandated to allow alcohol t be sold on Sundays.”

District 5 commissioner Charlie Harris, who introduced the item for consideration, rebutted that the sales tax the county raised temporarily to fund the jail was not mandatory.

“The tax was rammed down people’s throats,” Harris said. The constitution doesn’t provide for a sales tax either.”

Harris added that it would cost the county up to $30,000 to hold a special election on the issue, but Johnson proposed that the issue could be attached to the general election ballot in November.

“The session will get over in April, is it too much to ask that we put it on the November ballot for no extra money?” Johnson asked.

Harris said he doesn’t think it should be put off to November.

Johnson also expressed concern that some members of his district live within Troy and were able to vote in the municipal election.

“I don’t feel comfortable saying that half of my district has a right to voice their opinion on it but not all the others who live outside of Troy,” Johnson said.

County attorney Allen Jones said he would work on making a draft resolution for the commission to consider at their next meeting on Monday, December 11, partially to allow the City of Troy to finalize their policy for commissioners to consider and review.

Troy started the process of going through the Legislature earlier this year and held a referendum on the issue on October 10, passing by a 3-1 margin.

The vote was in favor of allowing alcohol sales after noon on Sundays both on and off premises within the Troy corporate limits. The council then crafted an ordinance limiting the sale of alcohol by lounge-type businesses to 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., but otherwise left the issue unchanged from the original language.

The council will hold a second reading of the ordinance tonight at their 5 p.m. council meeting and could vote the ordinance into effect immediately.

The next meeting of the Pike County Commission will be held Monday, December 11 upstairs at the Pike County Health Department.

The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be followed by the business meeting at 6 p.m.

Editor’s note: Other business discussed by the commission will be fully reported in a separate, upcoming article.