Letters on wet/dry issue: Cost of alcohol is too high

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It was with great interest that I read the July 13 articles of Holly Bowling and Jason Wainscott. While the statistics stated in Ms. Bowling’s article were rather compelling, they weren’t quite the whole story. After reviewing the website she listed, I discovered that the statistics she employed were from the years 1990-1995. The figures from 1995-2000 were much less impressive. Rather than the 40-percent drop in Pike County DUIs reported by Ms. Bowling when going from dry to wet, the figure for 1995-2000 was a 19-percent drop. In numerical numbers Pike County had 126 DUIs in 1995 and 103 in 2000, a drop of 23. All statistics showed this trend, and the 35-percent drop Ms. Bowling reported for Logan County when they became wet actually increased by 1 percent in the years 1995-2000, 29 DUIs in 1995 and 30 in 2000. Not reported in Ms. Bowling’s article was Calloway County, which went from dry to wet and resulted in an increase in DUIs in all years from 1990-2000.
Mr. Wainscott listed an impressive amount of alcohol tax monies received in Ashland, Madisonville, and Murray. As of 2010, the population for these three cities were as follows: Murray — 17,741; Madisonville — 19,591; and Ashland — 21,221. These cities have almost double the population of that of Owen County.
Isn’t that a bit like comparing apples and oranges?
Cities in Kentucky have to achieve a certain classification to put a tax on the sale of alcohol. Owen does not have that classification and therefore cannot put any tax on the sale of alcohol in the county.
Therefore, any tax monies would be sent to the state for the benefit of the Commonwealth, but no tax dollars would be forthcoming to benefit Owen County. Owen can petition the state legislature to have its classification changed and we then could apply a tax on the sale of alcohol. However, along with reclassification comes the addition of added laws and regulations, and the cost for compliance of these regulations would fall on the shoulders of Owen County taxpayers.
The regulation of alcohol is under the jurisdiction of the judge-executive, and if our judge could not keep up with the demand, an alcohol regulator would have to be hired. It has been estimated that salary and benefits for this position would cost the county approximately $50,000 a year. If we don’t receive any tax monies on alcohol — you guessed it — it would come out of the taxpayers’ pockets.
Eventually, if reclassification results in some tax monies for the county, these monies would not be part of the general fund but rather would be designated to employ a regulator, fund educational programs, and pay for other services that would be deemed necessary to regulate and oversee the sale of alcohol.
Mr. Wainscott mentioned the election in Trigg County, comparable to Owen County in population, and stated they succeeded in their efforts to become a wet county by a margin of 36 votes. Only 51.2 percent of the people voted in that election. That means that almost half of qualified voters did not make an effort to voice their opinion. One of the freedoms for which our forefathers fought and died was the freedom to vote. I hope that every eligible Owen County voter will honor that legacy.
Two very sobering statistics were listed on the website suggested by Ms. Bowling. In 1990, Pike County had 170 DUIs and 44 people died as a result. The same year, the 103 DUIs in Hopkins County took the lives of 47 people.
Is the exciting thought of restaurants springing up all over Owen County, or the promotion of supposed tax monies worth the loss of even one life if it is you or a member of your family? You decide.
Tom Strassell
Poplar Grove