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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Sharp County, will it be wet?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

(Photo)
Residents for and residents against the wet/dry proposal for Sharp County were in attendance at the Sharp County Fair recently to answer questions about the issue. A petition with over 6,000 signatures was collected in hopes of placing the issue on the November ballot. Photo by Terrah Baker
Sharp County residents who signed the petition to place the wet/dry issue on the November ballot are now being tallied, while opposing advocates of the issue are beginning to disclose contradicting facts.

The group supporting the vote towards becoming a wet county, Save Energy Reap Taxes (SERT) turned in their petition form Aug. 6 with over 6,000 signatures to be counted.

"I'm sure a lot may not be valid or there are duplicate signatures but we wanted to turn it in soon enough to give the clerk time to look over that," Stewart Freigy, treasurer of SERT said.

SERT members had to receive 38 percent of Sharp County voters-- 4,369 signatures -- in order to place the proposal on the November ballot.

During this year's Sharp County Fair, both the wet county supporters, represented by SERT, and the dry county supporters, represented by the Committee for Concerned Citizens, were handing out information that depicts two very different sides of what the reality of becoming a wet county would be. With the vote only three months away, local residents may be asking themselves which facts they can rely on to assist in making the right decision for their county.

SERT represents two arguments, both supporting the legalization of alcohol sales in Sharp County. One aspect is the argument that environmental factors play a major role in why the county should become wet. The second part of the issue is economic benefits that selling alcohol in the county will offer.

Where the arguments come together is that consumers are using an excess of fuel driving to neighboring counties while that county is reaping the sales tax benefits that could be used for projects throughout the area.

The facts presented by the dry county supporters tell residents that dry counties are more dangerous, don't bring in enough tax revenue to make up for the added dangers and denounce the theory that gas emissions are causing serious danger to the environment.

"Almost 50 percent of environmental scientists do not believe that man is causing global warming," a handout reads.

"That clearly means that more than half do believe it," Freigy added.

Ruth Reynolds, a SERT member and advocate of environmental awareness stated that although the dry county supporters name a reputable source, Lawrence Solomon, an author and an environmental scientist, who said that in the last decade temperatures have actually levelled off and in the last year have dropped. Another reputable source, James Hansen, who works for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, argued in front of the United States Congress that current carbon dioxide levels emitted from fossil fuels are extremely dangerous.

The issue of alcohol sales tax revenue for the county has also brought about blatant contradictions. Both sides of the issue present facts and information hoping to sway the majority of voters, but while dry county supporters say selling alcohol would actually cost an additional $40,000 a year for every deputy hired to make up for the increase in crime they say will occur, wet county supporters say that we are losing profits that could ultimately lower property taxes and help with necessary projects.

"$33,400 may not seem like much to a banker, but many Sharp County taxpayers don't make that much in a year," a SERT representative said.

Freigy also pointed out that although he agrees with the opposing sides view on how much Sharp County will bring in from sales tax, dry county supporters do not take into account the positive effects on the local economy as a whole.

"New businesses bring new jobs. Besides liquor stores, it is possible that an Olive Garden, Outback, a winery, etc. would locate here. Has anyone ever seen one of those establishments that do not sell wine?" Freigy said.

Sharp County currently has several private, alcohol serving establishments such as the South Golf Course Restaurant, Copper Feather, Elks, American Legion and some VFWs.

"People who are going to drink are going to drink, they don't need a liquor store on the corner," Jim Weston of Committee of Concerned Citizens said.

Along with the rise in crime rate, the dry county supporters said the need for law enforcement increases in a wet county. According to their statistics and the Arkansas Criminal Information Center, a wet county requires one officer for every 318 citizens while a dry county only requires one officer for every 501 citizens.

Freigy said that these numbers simply reflect the need for law enforcement in larger populated areas.

"Both crime and the need for law enforcement officers increase with population. Most of the wet counties are the larger populated counties," Freigy said.

Dry county supporters say the fact that population growth in wet counties is higher is a falsity and actually dry counties are growing exponentially. The statistics they gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2000 show that wet counties had an average growth of 7.4 percent while dry counties had an average growth of only 22 percent.

According to SERT, dry county supporters misinterpreted the statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and that the actual numbers show an average growth of 2.31 percent in wet counties and 1.71 percent in dry counties.

One major issue that concerns dry county supporters is that of the heightened or lowered crime rates a wet county experiences. According to their side, a wet county is significantly more dangerous than a dry county while the other side disagrees.

According to SERT, the percentage of traffic deaths due to alcohol is .0103 in wet counties, which is less than .0124 percent in dry counties. They received their information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Arkansas State Police records of 2006. The dry county supporters argue that crime rates and DUI offenses are 110 percent higher in wet counties than in dry counties. They received their information from a report conducted from 1998 to 1999 by the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Arkansas.

Much of the dry county supporters packet depicts issues with alcohol abuse in teenagers, and in general, but according to SERT, they agree that alcohol abuse is a negative aspect but deny that legalizing alcohol will increase that problem.

"We abhor alcohol abuse as much as they do," Freigy said. "We already have A.A., ALONON, etc. and a lot of other people with drinking problems in this county. It's bad, but not selling alcohol here sure hasn't stopped the problem," Freigy said. 

With an abundance of facts pointing in opposite directions, voters are turning to their own personal values and beliefs.

"I only know how I feel about the issue and what I've seen in the past. Statistics can be turned either way and can make it hard to determine truth," one Sharp County voter said.

The Sharp County Clerk will be reviewing the petitions and whether the issue will be voted on in November will be determined soon.


Comments
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I say let us voters decide. If people think we aren't already a wet county, they only need to go sit in court & hear all the DUI charges. And then there is the abuse & violence issues,and alcohol problems, they are already here and have been for years, being "legally" wet won't change anything except we will get the tax money etc and not Missouri!

-- Posted by ktay5875 on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 7:05 PM

Maybe some of you should read Proverbs. It talks a lot about wine and what it does to people. It would seem that good Christian folks wouldn't want to legalize anything that God says is bad for you. But then it also says that man became 'wise' in his own eyes.

-- Posted by Hem on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 4:34 AM

Maybe some of you should read Proverbs. It talks a lot about wine and what it does to people. It would seem that good Christian folks wouldn't want to legalize anything that God says is bad for you. But then it also says that man became 'wise' in his own eyes.

-- Posted by Hem on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 4:35 AM

I think there is an error in this story. I think a wet county is more dangerous, not a dry county.

No matter what happens in the county, there is not going to be an Outback or Olive Garden here. They need to get real. If that is their best reason for getting the county wet, they do not have a leg to stand on.

-- Posted by rebelman on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 10:43 AM

There is drinking in Sharp county but there isn't a liquor store on every corner. I lived in a wet county and didn't like it. If the people wants to live in a wet county then they should move to one.

-- Posted by gogirl5051 on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 7:35 PM

There is drinking in Sharp county but there isn't a liquor store on every corner. I lived in a wet county and didn't like it. If the people wants to live in a wet county then they should move to one.

-- Posted by gogirl5051 on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 7:36 PM

"Both crime and the need for law enforcement officers increase with population. Most of the wet counties are the larger populated counties," Freigy said.

This statement is not necessarily true as Craighead County, which includes Jonesboro (pop. 50,000+), is a dry county. Neighboring Poinsett County, which is a wet county, only has a pop. of about 25,000 for the entire county.

"Almost 50 percent of environmental scientists do not believe that man is causing global warming," a handout reads.

"That clearly means that more than half do believe it," Freigy added.

Not a very good argument for making Sharp County wet.

"New businesses bring new jobs. Besides liquor stores, it is possible that an Olive Garden, Outback, a winery, etc. would locate here. Has anyone ever seen one of those establishments that do not sell wine?" Freigy said.

Yes, Chili's in Jonesboro does not sell alcohol and neither does El Chico and their parking lots are always full. Rebelman makes a good point, I do not see Olive Garden or Outback coming to rural Sharp County simply because they could sell alcohol. If that was the case, restaurants such as Outback, Chili's, O'Charley's and others would be in Trumann (Poinsett County) right now instead of Jonesboro.

"We abhor alcohol abuse as much as they do," Freigy said. "We already have A.A., ALONON, etc. and a lot of other people with drinking problems in this county. It's bad, but not selling alcohol here sure hasn't stopped the problem," Freigy said. 

So tell us again why you want Sharp County to be wet? There may be less "global warming" but that won't mean a thing to the family of a dead alcoholic or the parents of a young drunk-driving victim!

-- Posted by Jill.Dye on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 9:24 PM

Missouri does not want this passed and with good reason. They want our tax dollars and disposable spending dollars going across the state line to them. Let's make the neighbors to the north find their own sources of revenue. I am convinced that Sharp County can still remain rural and quiet if this passes, but let's keep our money in the county so it benefits us and not another state.

Some say it is not much money, but it is enough that it can make difference.

The other fact remains that alcohol is a legal substance in The United States of America, whether some of youl ike it or not, and whether I like to have a drink with dinner or not, I do abhor the fact that in this day and age, people want to slowly erode more our rights all in the name of safety or religion, or both.

Folks, there are plenty of bible belt communities all across the US where alcohol is legal, and the last time I checked, they still exist, the devil hasn't taken over, and the dire consequences and panic talk of living in a wet county simply do not come to fruition. Everybody needs to relax and take with a grain of salt the extreme positions of the far religious right on this issue. I am not going to be popular by saying that, but somebody has to say it. This is one of those issues where they are going way too far and need to relax themselves.

I have said this before, and as a member of the United Methodist Church, I will say it again. I am not going straight to heII just because I like to drink a cold beer watching my KC Royals. Anyone who thinks otherwise is going off the deep end just a bit, don't you think?

Let the voters decide this once and for all. What a handful of voters did back in the 1940's, who are not even around anymore, should be done away with, and the issue should be brought up to the people who are actually around today.

http://www.cherokeevillagear.net/forum/v...

Paul

-- Posted by wellerisok2341 on Mon, Aug 18, 2008, at 10:54 AM

Missouri does not want this passed and with good reason. They want our tax dollars and disposable spending dollars going across the state line to them. Let's make the neighbors to the north find their own sources of revenue. I am convinced that Sharp County can still remain rural and quiet if this passes, but let's keep our money in the county so it benefits us and not another state.

Some say it is not much money, but it is enough that it can make difference.

The other fact remains that alcohol is a legal substance in The United States of America, whether some of youl ike it or not, and whether I like to have a drink with dinner or not, I do abhor the fact that in this day and age, people want to slowly erode more our rights all in the name of safety or religion, or both.

Folks, there are plenty of bible belt communities all across the US where alcohol is legal, and the last time I checked, they still exist, the devil hasn't taken over, and the dire consequences and panic talk of living in a wet county simply do not come to fruition. Everybody needs to relax and take with a grain of salt the extreme positions of the far religious right on this issue. I am not going to be popular by saying that, but somebody has to say it. This is one of those issues where they are going way too far and need to relax themselves.

I have said this before, and as a member of the United Methodist Church, I will say it again. I am not going straight to heII just because I like to drink a cold beer watching my KC Royals. Anyone who thinks otherwise is going off the deep end just a bit, don't you think?

Let the voters decide this once and for all. What a handful of voters did back in the 1940's, who are not even around anymore, should be done away with, and the issue should be brought up to the people who are actually around today.

http://www.cherokeevillagear.net/forum/v...

Paul

-- Posted by wellerisok2341 on Mon, Aug 18, 2008, at 10:55 AM

I agree with gogirl. Move to a wet county, or better yet move back up North.

-- Posted by rebelman on Wed, Aug 20, 2008, at 10:43 AM

I am a registered voter, and a concerned citizen and the main issue here is not whether it is right or wrong to drink alcohol, or whether I or anybody else believes it is or isn't, but weather allowing the sale of alcohol in our county is in the best interest for our county and the citizens of our county.

I have read the information from the dry point of view and it is from very reputable sources, witch documented mostly factual numbers and not statistics, and the last time I checked the census bureau still counted heads, 2+2 still equals 4, and 22% more growth is still nearly three times as much as 7.4% more growth and you can't twist that any other way. And there was not one piece of information, facts or statistics, sited in this article that this group of concerned citizens handed out at the fair that had anything to do with religion or denomination.

On the other hand I have asked, but yet to see only one piece of written information from SERT that has any type of factual information about the issue, and that was an Arkansas State Police report which still showed that there was more drug and alcohol related incidents in wet counties than dry. Ruth Reynolds told me herself that their (SERT's) information shows that there is at least 1% more alcohol and drug related arrests in wet counties than dry and that this "is not significant as far as she is concerned" but admittedly does not disclose this information unless asked, because "she knows that this does not help her agenda (the environment)". And by the way the 1% on this study is per incident in dry and wet counties, not per capita of population in the two. If you do the math, per capita, to come up with an actual, factual percentage you come up with a much greater percentage of drug and alcohol related deaths in wet counties. What this means is the number of population in dry counties in Arkansas on her sheet was greater than the population in wet counties on her sheet yet the number of drug and alcohol related deaths was near equal. So even their own (SERT's) information shows that it is safer to live in a dry county. Even if this was just 1%, that one percent could be the life of my son, daughter, wife or someone else I love dearly (this is "significant" to me). And that is just not a price I am willing to pay for "$33,400" or even "$250,000(this number was published in an earlier article by SERT and admitted false by SERT spokesman Stewart Freigy)" in tax revenue and a little bit less CO2 in the atmosphere. By the way, the last time I checked plants use CO2 (carbon dioxide) to make oxygen which is a very important component to breathing (this is fact not twisted theory; you really do need oxygen to breath, just try breathing without it).

It is also public record that SERT has received a portion of their financial support from certain people in different parts of our state that do not even have any affiliation with our county. So the question rises, if these individuals from other parts of the state open stores that sell alcohol, will the revenue from these sales truly stay in Sharp County or be injected into the revenue in other parts of our states?

It seams to me that we have a group of people (SERT) with some hidden agenda, disguised as a wet/dry issue that does not truly have the community's best interest in mind. Each time I try to research or talk with someone from SERT I seem to get either some religious, environmental rhetoric or find some admitted false truths, half truths and twisted or unverified facts and statistics. Even some of the media, for some reason, seem a little bias towards these folks.

Personally I would stay away from this specific wet/dry issue because at least on one side, it has deception written all over it and when deception is the foundation of an issue nothing good ever comes out of it. I agree with others about the right as citizens in a free country to vote on issues, and whether you think it is right to have a bear in your living room to watch a game is up to you. But if you want something on the ballot, say what it is and don't try to trick people (if you want sharp county wet because you don't want to drive to MO to buy alcohol, than just say that and get it on the ballot so the people can vote on it), don't use other issues such as the environment and taxes (there are plenty of other worth wile ways to help the environment and lower taxes), and definitely don't try to falsify and twist your information to influence voters. This in my opinion is what SERT has done. These tactics are wrong no matter how you look at it.

As citizens of this county and this free country it is our duty and obligation to be informed of an issue before we vote on it, and possibly have a law or statute imposed upon a portion of the community that do not want it. Check the facts and even contact the two sides if there is any question. Don't decide for someone else on an issue you are not even sure about yourself.

The two web sites are:

http://www.localenergymatters.info/sert/...

http://www.drysharpcounty.org

-- Posted by ctkscd on Thu, Aug 21, 2008, at 1:22 AM

Speaking to the comments made by wellerisok2341, I'm not real sure that John Wesley the founder of the United Methodist Church and the principles on witch he stood would agree with all your statements here, and your bitterness towards those who do not see things exactly as you do.

You can be convinced of something in your mind all you want to be but it does not make it right. Just because something is legal does not always make it right or good for a society either. Abortion is legal in the United States, and taking the life of a child is absolutely wrong according to the bible (the same bible John Wesley and the United Methodist Church of today still use). So I guess you have to ask yourself this question. What set of standards are you going to live by? The standards you come up with, the ones set forth by the society of today or the standards of the religious denomination that you so firmly stand upon, that was founded in the 18th century and who's moral teachings date back to before the time of Christ? But please thoroughly examine both sides and pick one.

-- Posted by ctkscd on Thu, Aug 21, 2008, at 2:12 AM

I believe we live in a free country, a democracy if you will, and it is legal in this democracy for anyone 21 and older to consume alcahol.

Sorry I forgot what was the question??

Oh yea if we, as smart communists, get together and vote against making the county wet, then we are succesful in keeping people from drinking and we are showing how un-american we can be, by saying screw you constitution!

I wish people would realize that this is a legal thing in our country and so it should be in the county! Meth addiction, oh who cares about that but man we can not have those responsible adults getting some beer or wine, and having a drink in the privacy of there own home. If they want to do that we are gonna make it hard for them, make them drive to Missouri and give them all the revenue!!! Idiots!

-- Posted by ruamerican on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 11:25 PM

ruamerican, I to believe in democracy and freedom, and hold true to our Constitution which says that the federal government has never had the authority to directly intervene in the government of states or localities, and for good reason, and this includes the issue of the sale and manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, and I see no way under the Constitution that it could be otherwise. This also means that one or more states does not control the laws of other individual states nor do one or more counties and municipalities within a state make the laws for the others in the same state.

The local government, just like the state and federal government get their authority from the people, who are the original holders of inherent political power, just as our forefathers who wrote our Constitution meant it to be. All power and authority given to government officials and the law making process flows from the people, and that authority remains limited in its scope and term and can be taken away by the people at any time. This process is one of the things that makes this country a "free country" and keeps it from being a type of monarchy or communist state type government that bred the tyranny from which our forefathers broke free from. This is also the reason we are privileged to be able to have the diversities of beliefs and heritages that we do in our society. Like it or not this is the American way and we are in America.

I will be the first to admit that I probably do not agree with every law that is on the books everywhere in the US, but I don't live everywhere in the US, I have a choice given to me by the Constitution of the United States, just as you do, and I choose to live in Sharp County, AR. I will say again that just because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is right, and there are probably some laws, even here in Sharp County, that I think are good that others think to be not so good. But here again is a privilege of living in a free democratic society and not a communist one, and that is the right to disagree, argue a point and bring issues before the rest of the citizens to be voted on. Just remember there is no voting in a communist society, and there is no freedom to take the facts at hand and, wrong or right, choose for yourself.

And on the issue of drug addiction, you ask "who cares?" Well I do, having grown up with an alcoholic mother and father who also had problems with drugs, including meth, as a result of their alcohol abuse, I have seen first hand the destruction and brokenness that both leave behind. I believe most residents of Sharp County care about this issue also. The facts and statistics clearly show that drug abuse and drug related crimes occur more in wet counties compared to dry counties. And if you are really interested in this, these facts and statistics are public record and can be found by researching and contacting state and local law enforcement, certain government research agencies, and the US Census Bureau (you can also find list of links to some of these agencies and a lot of this information already compiled by these agencies at www.drysharpcounty.org).

-- Posted by ctkscd on Wed, Aug 27, 2008, at 2:48 AM

Whether it is about drinking or the financial issues of their community, I believe "responsible" people look at and weigh all the variables at hand before they make decisions and those who don't are foolish. The issue of tax revenue for a county that is wet being some supernatural savior for the economic welfare of the community, and that there is more alcohol related crime in dry counties, because people have to drive to wet counties to get their alcohol, is just not true but merely an uneducated opinion that has somehow made its way into the minds and mouths of some, for the most part, unsuspecting, intelligent, well intentioned individuals.

"If Sharp County were to have liquor sales of $3 million, which is approximately half of what Baxter County had in 2007, we would take in or collect about $250,000 in tax money as a combination of the 3% excise tax and 6% state tax. This money then goes to the state and is divided among all 75 counties as turn back funds. Our 1/75th share would be about $3,400. Add to that our county 1% sales tax of $30,000 and you have a total of $33,400. The amount collected would be $250,000 - the amount kept would be $33,400. The total amount of turn back funds received by Sharp County in 2007 from all sales of consumer goods in the entire state of Arkansas, including liquor, was $193,540."

$33,400 will not pay for even one of the many police officers, county and municipal, and additional health services that will be needed when the crime rate, drug and alcohol abuse (youth and adult) goes up as a result of the county going wet. (Factual and statistical evidence for this can be found at www.drysharpcounty.org)

In all actuality the current tax rate paid by the people of Sharp County would most likely have to be increased to support these additional services along with the government offices and officials that are currently in place.

And speaking about local revenue being lost, most people are probably filling up at local gas stations here in Sharp County before they make that trek up to MO, which will stop if they just have to go down to the corner to buy their alcohol. So who is this helping financially?

I agree drunk driving is a problem everywhere and is a senseless act, but according to "Risk Factors for Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Arkansas," a study of both adults and adolescents, published by the Arkansas Dept. of Health, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, it was found that:

"The average number of Adult Drunk Driving Arrests per 1000 population was 30% more in wet counties"

"The average number Adult Alcohol & Drug Arrests per 1000 population was 34% more in wet counties"

"The average number of Juvenile Arrests for Drug Violations per 1000 population was 32% more in wet counties"

If you live in Sharp County just go to your local law enforcement agency office, ask to see the crime reports from the prior five years, and talk to the police officers and the jailers then go to one of these towns in MO, where people are driving to and do the same. Then do a comparison for yourself on the crime and quality of life in both. I think you will find life is very good in Sharp County, AR just the way it is.

-- Posted by ctkscd on Wed, Aug 27, 2008, at 2:56 AM

I do not have time to do all of this research that you suggest, as I have a job, family, etc. I do know that there are numbers and stats that can show you kids 10-12 prefer gin over rum. I mean come on. You can buy a gun in Sharp county, you can buy a knife in Sharp county, you can buy poison and many dangerous chemicals, including cigarettes and chewing tabaco in Sharp county amd Sharp county says "hey its ok to go to one of the clubs and drink and drive home" but you can't buy alcahol in Sharp county??? I don't feel very free.

-- Posted by ruamerican on Wed, Aug 27, 2008, at 10:38 PM

I am a concerned citizen of Hardy. Especially when I read some of these comments and I see first hand how some people think. Wow! Can't believe it. I am for a dry county with obvious reason, who wants more crime in there town? The biggest argument that I've heard is, "We will get more money for our town if we can sell booze." Whether that statement is true or false, I don't care. I look at the statistics of wet counties in Ar. and dry counties in Ar. and I can plainly see that crime is much worse in wet counties. 122% more murder, 96% more rape, 326% more robberies, 127% more aggrav. assault just to name a few. Money is NOT more important to me than my safety, my belongings, or even my life. Who wants to live in and raise their children in a more dangerous town, when we have the option not to? Not me.

-- Posted by rebelchick on Thu, Sep 4, 2008, at 10:10 PM


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