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Alcohol issue laid to rest …for now

By Staff
More signatures needed for next referendum
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Any future votes on alcohol sales in Hartselle will require a much larger number of people signing a petition calling for the referendum.
Alabama law requires 25 percent of the last registered voters casting a ballot in the most recent election to sign a petition before a wet/dry referendum can be held.
In the Nov. 5 referendum, organizers had to get some 800 signatures in order to put the issue on the ballot.
Now, however, because of the record-setting turnout in the referendum, two weeks ago, that number has increased dramatically.
Some 5,444 voters cast their ballot in the wet/dry referendum. Using those figures,
Organizers would have to have at least 1,361 signatures before another vote could be held.
Hartselle has 7,839 registered voters.
Alabama law also requires at least a two-year wait between alcohol referendums.
The two roadblocks could mean a long time before Hartselle voters are faces with the question of legalizing alcohol in the city.
"I doubt this matter will come up again soon," Mayor Clif Knight, an opponent of alcohol sales, said.
With the failure of the alcohol measure, Knight and other council members are looking at passing a 10 mill property tax increase. No petitions would have to be signed by voters to put this on the ballot. It would require only approval by the city council and the local legislative delegation before the matter could be voted on.
The soonest that could happen would be April.
In the meantime, Knight said the council is working on its 5-year capital improvement plan. The first draft will be available in three-four weeks and Knight said the public will be invited to comment on the plan.
Then, according to Councilman Allen Stoner, the council will be faced with the task of selling a property tax increase to a skeptical public. He said it needs only to look at Families for a Safe Hartselle – the grassroots organization that was successful in keeping alcohol out of the city- to see how to run a campaign.
"You have to congratulate them," he said. "They ran a textbook campaign."
Such a campaign is needed to convince voters to approve a tax increase. If they don't, Stoner said, the city is looking at hard times.
"If you vote that (the property tax) you have just shot yourself in the foot and you won't know how bad you're bleeding until the next year and your soccer fields aren't built, your ballfields aren't maintained and you don't have the services you're used to."

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