Citizens group urges petition for alcohol referendum



During the week of June 25, a group called Citizens for Blount County’s Future began distributing copies of a petition requesting an election to be held to permit the legal sale of alcoholic beverages within Blount County. Margaret Boatright of Locust Fork, speaking for her father-in-law Ronnie Branham, who heads the group, said that about 1000 signatures were collected in the first week.

“Right now, the group consists of about a dozen members,” she said. “That includes business leaders, veterans, retirees, parents, and other concerned citizens. None of us own stores or anything, so we have nothing to gain from the sale of alcohol.”

Asked for the group’s rationale, she replied: “The rationale’s easy. It’s more money for Blount County – 75 percent of sales tax money in Blount County goes to the schools and 25 percent goes to the county general fund. That’s money for our schools and roads and it’s badly needed for both. Last year, the City of Cullman collected $1.2 million in alcohol sales taxes and that was just for eight months of the year. In 2008, an economic impact study of projected alcohol sales in Blount County estimated the annual tax revenue to be $1.24 million at that time. It would probably be more now.”

County schools ranked 80 out of 124

“Our schools especially need more money. Based on math and English test score results, Blount County system schools are rank-ed 80th out of 124 Alabama school districts by SchooldiggerAlabama- .com. Go online to their website and see for yourself. (Schooldigger is a national organization that provides online rankings for schools and school districts in states across the country, based on statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and, in Alabama’s case, by the State Dept. of Education. – Ed.) I don’t know where the county system ranks in expeditures per student, but I’ll bet it’s not very high. Based on the 2008 economic impact study, more than $900,000 more a year would go to schools in the county if the alcohol referendum passes,” she said.

Boatright said that the election they are requesting requires a number of signatures on the petition equal to or exceeding 25 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last general election. That number is 17,001. Onefourth of that number is 4250. All of those must be valid names, she emphasized – people who are valid residents registered to vote in Blount County. That requirement will mean collecting substantially more than 4250 signatures, perhaps as many as 8000, she said. Citizens may register to vote, she added, by going to the courthouse and filling out the necessary forms or may register online by accessing the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

Oneonta getting ready

Oneonta city manager Ed Lowe released the following statement concerning the group’s effort to set a ballot referendum: “We’re doing the research to prepare an ordinance for adoption in case the county votes to legalize alcohol sales. We’ll be working on that pretty diligently the next month or so.” Lowe said the ordinance would cover such subjects as public signage, hours of sale for stores offering alcohol for sale, proper venues for sale (e.g. convenience stores, eating establishments), and related items.

Sign petition online and mail it in

Boatright said that in addition to signing the petition at the dozen or more locations where copies have been placed in gas station/ convenience stores around the county, people may print out a copy of the petition from one of two sites online, sign the petition, then mail it to Citizens for Blount County’s Future, P.O. Box 600, Cleveland, Al., 35049.

One way to find a copy of the online form is by getting on Facebook, “friending” Citizens for Blount County’s Future, and following the prompts from there. A second way is to access CitizensforBlountCounty’sFuture.com, a website which will be up and running before this week is out, she said.

Locations where the petition may be found, to the best of Boatright’s recollection, are given below:

Allgood

Busy Bee Food Mart

Cleveland

Tonka Shell

Locust Fork area

Hicks Poor Boy store

Locust Fork Grocery & Hardware

Hayden area

Logan’s store

Shell station at I-65

Oneonta

Jet-Pep

The Coffee Shoppe

Covered Bridge Inn

Rainbow Crossing

One or both service stations

Remlap

The Super Saver

Snead at U. S. 278/Ala 75 intersection

Two service stations

Anyone interested in joining the group may call Ronnie Branham at 205-559-4738.