Petition asks for alcohol sales in city

By Staff
Nathan Strickland
Russellville city officials are keeping a look out for a petition of names to be turned in to decide whether or not a wet/dry referendum will be on the ballot the next time the polls open.
A petition has been circulated calling for the legalization of alcohol sales in the city.
The first Tuesday in June has been marked for the next primary elections and city officials have not seen a petition as of yet asking for a vote on legal alcohol sales.
A fairly new law that allows cities in dry counties to vote on legalizing alcohol sales states that “any municipality having a population of 1,000 or more, excluding Clay, Randolph and Blount counties, may change its classification from dry to wet or wet to dry by a municipal option election.”
There are currently 12 counties in Alabama that have at least one town who elected to take the municipal option and chose to go wet, even though the rest of the county chose to stay dry.
Russellville city clerk Kim Wright said that 641 certifiable signatures must be collected on a petition and city officials must certify that those on the list are registered voters in the city of Russellville. The 641 names represents 30 percent of the 2,136 votes cast in the last municipal election.
According to state law, an election shall not be held within less than 30 days from the date of filing, the municipal option must be given by the mayor and city council at least three weeks prior to the election, every person on the petition must also be on the voters list and 30 percent of those must have voted in the last election.
If the correct amount of signatures appears on the petition and they are certified, the measure would automatically be put on a ballot. The city council would have to approve of the date of the election, but they cannot stop the measure from coming to a vote of the people.
The last wet/dry vote was taken on March 13, 1984, at various poll sites in Franklin County. The municipal option was not available at that time so the referendum was a county wide vote with 2,592 voting yes and 5,947 voting no. Of those 8,539 votes, Russellville city tallied a close race collecting 1,053 yeses and 1,569 nos.
According to a survey conducted by the Alabama League of Municipalities, 10 cities in Alabama, including Russellville, are anticipated to have a wet/dry referendum in June. Faulkville will have a referendum and Carbon Hill, along with Jemison, have already voted.
Russellville Mayor Troy Oliver said if the resolution happens to get on the ballot and the majority votes yes, then the aspect of controlling what comes into the city will be the issue.
Oliver said passing the resolution would affect surrounding areas, taking revenue away from such towns as Littleville who needs all the funds they can get being such a small town.
Russellville citizen and registered voter Dick Tutich said there is definitely a petition being circulated around town and that he has signed the petition and hopes the town will vote wet when the time comes.
Tutich also believes going wet will help with industrial growth and stop rising taxes.
Tutich said he is aware of the time deadline and believes names are still being collected and the petition will be looked over to make sure all the names are certifiable before it is turned in to city officials.
City Councilman Jeff Masterson said he sees both sides of the issue, but he would not try to stop the issue from being placed on the ballot if the petition receives the amount of signatures that is needed.
Calvary Baptist Church pastor Dr. Wade Wallace strongly disagrees and hopes to keep the city dry, based on moral values.
Wallace said he couldn’t see supporting something that could potentially resort in taking someone’s life or destroying a home.
A petition has not been submitted to city officials as of yet. Officials said without a petition there will be no vote on the wet/dry issue in the upcoming election.