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Spencer County’s apparent thirst for purchasing alcohol was quenched Tuesday night when voters approved 2,767 to 1,928 to go wet.
Judge Executive David Jenkins said now that the issue has been settled – by a margin of 839 votes – a more crucial undertaking lies just ahead.
“There’s going to be a lot of work in next couple of months setting up ordinances,” said Jenkins. “People need to be contacting their magistrates about what they want.”
In 60 days, magistrates will be faced with a state-mandated deadline to repeal the county’s prohibition laws and create new standards for selling, licensing and even advertising alcohol sales. Jenkins said that fiscal court will be meeting with representatives from Kentucky’s Alcohol Beverage Commission soon to review state laws and discussing how to blend them with the needs of the community.
“We will be looking to them for guidance,” said Jenkins.
Minutes after the election results were tabulated, Magistrate Bill Drury sent an e-mail to Jenkins and others on fiscal court requesting a special-called meeting.
“We’ve got one shot to do this thing and to do it right,” said Drury. “I don’t want to do this in a regular meeting.”
Jenkins said all decisions on alcohol-related ordinances will go through fiscal court, so any resident interested in participating in the process is encouraged to attend the public meetings.
Inside election headquarters, reporters outnumbered local citizens as they waited for precincts to file in with ballot results. Instead of the usual political players jockeying for position at the county clerk’s office counter, a line of TV cameras and note-scribbling journalists occupied much of the small space.
Outside, curious residents occupied benches along Main Street or sat in their cars nearby. The few citizens that did enter the courthouse to hear the news first hand were obviously hoping for a different outcome. As the precinct results were announced one-by-one, defeated glances passed around the room.
“I’m certainly disappointed,” said James Allen Tipton, “but I don’t feel like we failed. We were able to get our point of view out.”
Tipton, president of Spencer County Alliance for Family Enrichment (SAFE), could not be at the courthouse, but kept tabs on the election results by calling fellow wet vote opponents.
“It was always more about October 21, than October 20,” said Tipton. “There’s still going to be people suffering from drugs and alcohol and they are going to need prayer.”
Tipton said he has heard rumblings that opponents of the vote might go precinct by precinct and attempt to reverse the election results. To do so, the petition process would follow the same procedure that brought the county to the point it is now.
“It’s possible,” said Tipton. “It would be something for us to pray about and look at later down the road.”
At the polls
Poll workers at larger precincts, like Taylorsville and Elk Creek, witnessed a steady stream of voters throughout Tuesday. The total number of ballots cast represented a 40 percent turnout for the one-issue election.
Bob Jones, an election sheriff at the Taylorsville precinct, said that voters began lining up outside the polling place at First Baptist Church by 5:20 a.m. Polls opened throughout the county at 6 a.m.
"We've had at least two voters in here at all times," said Jones.
Taylorsville had the highest turnout with 949, followed by Elk Creek 8 and 4 with 627 and 611 respectively.
Tuesday afternoon, voters at Spencer Christian Church in Elk Creek readily offered their opinions on why they chose yes or no.
Joanne and David Kontowsky said they decided to vote yes so that nicer restaurants would locate closer to home.
“We don’t want to have to go all the way to J-town to eat,” said David Kontowsky. “And if I want to buy a six-pack, I might as well keep the business in Spencer County.”
A few minutes later, Robert Yates exited the church and quickly offered an opposing view.
“I think it will be a big expense on the county, especially with the extra police we will need. I don’t think it will make enough money to pay for police and the new police cars they will need,” said Yates.
Tonya Deetch said she did not think the county would see any significant benefit from going wet.
“I think it will benefit individuals, but it won’t benefit me,” said Deetch. “I moved out here because I like Spencer County the way it is. I don’t see the need for it to change.”
Mike Childress said he was more concerned about the safety of his children as his family travels county roads.
“I’ve already lost several side mirrors while driving these narrow roads. Our roads are too narrow for someone to go to a restaurant, have a drink and drive,” said Childress.
But Jerry and Suzanne Duncan said they were tired of driving out of the county for dinner and an adult beverage.
“If I want to drink a glass of wine in a restaurant, I don’t want to go to Shelby County or Jefferson County,” said Jerry Duncan. He also saw alcohol sales as a way to create a tax base locally.
Jenkins said the vote could certainly be beneficial to local businesses and he has been looking at ways to best take advantage of the new revenue source.
During his research, Jenkins said he has discovered there may be ways to increase tax revenue in addition to imposing license fees and collecting occupational taxes on any new jobs created. The judge executive would not elaborate on what those sources of funds would be, but was optimistic.
Calls to petition spokesperson B.J. Smith were not returned at press time.