By CECIL PERGRAM
Dee Dotson is shown above with a campaign sign making her case for Powell County to approve alcohol sales
Dee Dotson, 48, owner of Dees’ Barber Shop in Stanton and co-owner of Callie’s Lake and Campground in Bowen, says as a teenager and throughout the years has been asked the same question by tourists visiting our beautiful Natural Bridge area: “Where can we buy beer?”
If Dotson had it her way, she would much rather send tourists to local businesses here in Powell County instead of neighboring wet counties where they buy their groceries, gasoline and alcoholic beverages.
“When campers are staying with us at Callie’s Campground and ask where can they buy beer, we have to explain what “Dry” is and then direct them to Slade or Mount Sterling.
Dotson says she believes in a “Powell County First” motto which led her to research the steps needed to get the vote put on the ballot May 22. Mary Sue Helm, with the Kentucky State Board of Elections, gave her step by step instructions on how to lawfully and thoroughly proceed. She needed to collect 1,254 signatures to get the vote put on the ballot and began her work, along with many others, on November 8, 2017. With overwhelming support from the community, she had the signatures needed by December 22, 2017, with people still stopping by her barber shop asking to sign the petition days and weeks after she had turned in the petition. With the Natural Bridge Lodge being wet has has had a huge impact in local restaurants. It’s a unfair playing field. As well as loosing Cattlemans almost 4 years ago due to them asking to help get the county wet. Without change Powell county will remain stagnant and will never be considered for new chain restaurants, new factories or hotels.
Brad Smith, Chief Of Police in Irvine, Ky. says they imposed a five percent Regulatory Fee which has generated over $60,000 for Administration and Enforcement.
“We have made purchases of Roadside Breath Testers, in car cameras and have made purchases of several vehicles in the last 4 years,” Smith said.
Third and fourth Class cities can pass a regulatory fee on the sale of alcohol that go to local law enforcement agencies.
Breathitt County similarly passed a vote to allow alcohol sales in July 2016 and the city of Jackson approved a five percent regulatory fee on malt beverages and six percent regulatory fee on liquor and wine that goes to it’s local law enforcement agency for the enforcement, regulation or administration of alcohol laws.
Jackson Police Department Chief of Police Kenneth Spicer says five percent of all beer sales and six percent of all liquor sales over the past year has went to his police department. He says that money amounts to around $5,000-to-$6,000 a month.
“I’m local Alcohol Beverage Control Administrator as well as the Chief of Police so they pay part of my salary and anything associated with it such as my retirement back to the city,” Spicer said.
Spicer says he has seen an increases in Driving Under the Influence arrests but he doesn’t attribute the increase in those in his community’s decision to allow alcohol sales.
“In Breathitt County we don’t have a drinking problem, we have a drug problem. There has been a few more increases in alcohol related DUI’s but I’ll be honest the ones we got are people from Owsley County. They went wet the same time we did and we got people coming to our hospital from Lee, Wolfe and Owsley Counties,” Spicer said speaking of the DUI’s. “They are not necessary our residents because we get a lot of traffic from outside of our community. What we see now is if people want to have a drink they stop at the local gas station buy a 12-pack and go home.”
Spicer says while he didn’t vote to allow alcohol sales it was a decision that has been a good thing for his police department.
“We used the regulatory fee to buy police cars and uniforms with the money, that money would have to come out of the city’s budget before so it frees up the city’s money they would normally spend of administration, enforcement and regulation of alcohol laws back into the general fund,” Spicer said. “They can use the money they would’ve spent for other things fixing roads, water lines or things like that. I can’t say that I voted for it but it has helped my department.”
I spoke to local pastor at Stanton Baptist Church Johnathan Lewis who says he had nothing but love and kindness for those who want to make Powell County wet however he didn’t know if the economic benefits would outweigh the social costs.
Powell County residents will decide whether or not to allow alcohol sales by voting in a countywide ballot measure on May 22.