Randolph County votes wet
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Nov 06, 2012 | 8921 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WEDOWEE – Cheers.

That could be the toast Randolph County residents who supported legal alcohol sales in the county use in the upcoming weeks, after voting Tuesday to allow alcohol sales, by almost 800 votes.

“I think it’ll be great for the county,” said Ron Young, the co-chairman of Keep Dollars in Randolph County, the group that spearheaded the effort to get legal alcohol sales in the county. Young, speaking from the Randolph County Courthouse just after the totals went official, said the reason residents wanted the change was a matter of dollars and cents.

“It’s all about the economy, that’s all it is,” he said.

Despite a damp, cold election day in Randolph County, voter turnout at the polls was strong, with close to 10,000 residents in the mostly rural area turning up to the polls.

Supporters of alcohol sales said they supported the tax revenue the county stood to gain from alcohol sales as well as potential job and industry growth.

And the proximity to nearby, wet Chambers County, weighed heavily on some voters’ minds too.

“It’s time for a change,” said Roanoke resident Greg Johnson. “You go three miles down the road on U.S. 431 and you can buy it. Why not bring it across the county line? I think once we do people will see it’s not so bad.”

“It’s not like you can’t get it within six miles of here,” said Danielle Fluharty, of Roanoke. “I don’t see why we can’t sell it here.”

Cynthia Crenshaw said she doesn’t drink, but said alcohol sales seemed to her a logical way to bring in money to support schools and roads in the county.

“I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but eventually it’ll work for us,” Crenshaw said. “I think our county needs the revenue.”

Dry supporters looked like they were out-campaigning their wet opponents on Election Day. The group Randolph Citizens For Truth set up a tent outside of the National Guard Armory in Roanoke encouraging voters to vote “no” on alcohol sales and handed out pamphlets as residents made their way inside to the polls.

The group’s message, they said, was to combat the figures and total revenue numbers that wet supporters said alcohol sales could bring to the county.

“They say they’re going to bring $1 million into the county from $10 million sales,” said Ken Nix of Roanoke. “That’s a 10 percent tax, and a city or county can’t tax alcohol at 10 percent.”

Nix said a county or city could raise tax revenue for all goods, not just alcohol, to one percent, which wouldn’t come anywhere near the cash flow wet supporters were claiming alcohol sales would bring in.

“Well, a one percent tax would be $100,000, and that’s of $10 million,” Nix said. “Chambers County last year sold $1.7 million, and they have twice the population of us.”

But most voters at the polls Tuesday who opposed alcohol sales seemed less concerned about economic issues and more about moral problems they said alcohol could bring to the county.

“I think when you look at both sides, the bad outweighs the good,” said Wedowee resident Paul Frye. “I think when you look at the problems caused by alcohol, it just isn’t worth it.”

Other voters said they just wanted to keep the status quo.

“I like things the way they are,” said a voter in Wedowee who declined to give his name. “I like being different, and if you’re going to be different, be different about something that matters.”

Cindy Holloway, a Roanoke woman who said she’s lived in the county for 30 years, said she hadn’t made up her mind when she went to the polls, but voted dry after thinking about the possible transformation of the strong, faith-based community she lived in.

“I just don’t think we’re ready,” she said. “We’re just too much of a Bible-based Christian community. I don’t think I’m ready to go into the convenience store with my grandchildren and see alcohol. I don’t want to feel responsible for that.”

What transformation the vote will have in Randolph County is yet to be seen, but provisions on alcohol sales will be determined by county and city leaders in the upcoming weeks, Young said.

“The quicker they can decide what to do, the quicker they can see revenue,” Young said.

With the vote Tuesday, neighboring Clay County remains the only county in Alabama completely dry.

Other winners in Randolph County Tuesday night included George Diamond, winning re-election for probate judge, Terry Lovvorn and Lathonia Wright who won re-election bids for County Commission and will be joined with newly elected members Larry Roberts, Mike Hester and Richard Fetner, and Roger Key who won the District 6 position on the County Board of Education.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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