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Voters will decide whether to expand alcohol sales in city



Voters in the City of Whitesburg will soon get to vote on whether alcohol sales should be expanded inside city limits.

A petition calling for the vote has been delivered to office of Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, whose responsibility it is to schedule the special election.

Whitesburg resident Mark Kidd, who organized the petition drive, delivered the petition containing 147 signatures on Monday. Ward has been away from his office and said he needs to discuss the matter with Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton before any decision is made.

Kidd said only about 70 signatures — representing 25 percent of those who voted in Whitesburg on Nov. 8 — were needed for the petition. Letcher County Court Clerk Winston Meade said only eight of the 147 people who signed the petition are not registered to vote in the city.

Although Ward has not set a date for the special election, Meade said based on state regulations, June 26 is the only day that meets the election requirements.

Kidd, who owns commercial property downtown, said he had been talking to people who are in favor of having a special election to vote on whether or not Whitesburg should be wet. He said he decided to go ahead and get a petition in circulation after researching state law.

The first signature was given on Dec. 22. The petition reads as follows:

“In order to promote economic development and tourism within the City of Whitesburg, Kentucky, the undersigned, being residents and registered voters in Whitesburg, do hereby petition for a local option election, as required by Kentucky Revised Statutes 242.020. As required by KRS 242.050, the proposition on the election ballot shall state ‘Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in Whitesburg, Kentucky?’”

In the spring of 2007, voters in Whitesburg approved a referendum allowing the sale of alcohol in restaurants that seat at least 100 patrons and derive at least 70 percent of their income from the sale of food.

If voters approve the new referendum it would be up to the Whitesburg City Council and Mayor James W. Craft to determine the regulations governing the sale of alcohol in the city.

Whitesburg is one of several Kentucky cities moving to expand alcohol sales from restaurantonly. Voters in the city of Murray in southwestern Kentucky are expected to vote on a similar measure there on May 22.

Voters in the city of Manchester in Clay County approved package alcohol sales last June, as did voters in the city of Corbin in Laurel County on February 20. A drive to make package alcohol sales legal in London, also in Laurel County, failed on March 6 by 157 votes, 958 to 801.

Residents will go to the polls in neighboring Knott County on April 10 to vote on whether to allow alcohol sales there as well.

Ezalee Pigman, the Knott County citizen who started the petition, said he doesn’t see any negatives about allowing alcohol sales.

“Making the county wet could decrease the amount of alcohol related incidents and D.U.I.’s because people spend less time on the road because they don’t have to go to other counties to get it,” he said.

Knott County Sheriff Dale Richardson acknowledged that alcohol sales could bring needed jobs. “If it could create jobs, that would be a plus,” said Richardson.

Knott Judge/Executive Randy Thompson said he opposed alcohol sales but “will let the people decide what they want to do.”

Meanwhile, an Alcoholic Beverage Control official said this week that the city of Elizabethtown in central Kentucky has sold more than $300,000 worth of beer in the first two weeks that such sales were allowed.

ABC Administrator Tom Reynolds told Elizabethtown City Council members on Monday that the sales occurred at 27 retail outlets between Dec. 14 and Dec. 31.

The News-Enterprise reported that the numbers came as a surprise to city officials.

If Knott County approves alcohol sales, Letcher County will be totally surrounded by counties and cities that sell alcohol by the package.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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