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As some people against Owen County becoming completely wet discuss their opposition, one word seems to be repeated over and over.
With the local option vote scheduled for Tuesday, Steve Delaney and Dave Jones with Citizens for a Dry Owen County not only keep pondering that question but also the potential for harm that could come from expanded alcohol sales in the county and if it could bring significant new money into the county coffers.
Without a fourth-class city status, the county can’t tax alcohol sales. If there are more alcohol sales, Delaney said the county must spend more money on regulation and enforcement.
“Our (county) budget needs will go up but the revenue will stay about the same,” Delaney said. “There will be a need for more police. It will not be the windfall for the local government and the county that some people claim it will be.”
Delaney said when the impact of going wet is added up, it’s a bad deal for the county and the community.
“It is in the best interest of the people of Owen County to keep alcohol sales out,” Delaney said. “For those who choose to drink, alcohol is available plenty of other places. We don’t have to have it here in Owen County.”
Jones, who was also a member of the Owen 20/20 Vision Project, said he doesn’t believe that the majority of Owen countains want more alcohol sales.
“As part of the project, we went all over this county and talked to probably hundreds of people but this (expanded alcohol sales) was never talked about as a solution to our economic problems,” Jones said.
Although both sides of the debate is well-armed with statistics that support their claims, Jones said the public has been mislead by some of the wet force’s claims.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there on the other side,” Jones said. “You can look at the statistics from the Kentucky State Police and see that there is a connection between being wet and an increase in problems.”
Jones said Owen County’s demographics and highway structure doesn’t compare with other wet communities.
“They look at Danville as being a success,” Jones said. “Well, the city of Danville has almost the same population as all of Owen County. They can’t be compared”
Jones said some people expect going wet will trigger an economic boom that simply won’t come to Owen County.
“Big chain restaurants make decisions based on population and how many people live nearby, not whether it is wet or dry,” Jones said. “Dry Ridge is proof of that.”
With license fees being the main source of income for the county from alcohol until a tax could possibly be put into place, Delaney said he sees no way the cash-strapped county couldn’t have to take on additional expenses.
“Maybe (Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith) can take on the additional duties she would have as the alcohol control officer and maybe she can’t. I understand it’s a lot of work. If she can’t, that is another big expense for the county.”
Delaney said there are also a lot of hidden costs to increased availability of alcohol including lost productivity, stress and other health concerns.
Delaney said there could be longer lines at local businesses when a teenage employee must go find an adult manager to ring up an alcohol sale.
Jones said the wet supporters simply haven’t made a good case for increased sales.
“They haven’t quantified anything they’ve claimed,” Jones said. “I think there is a small group of people, maybe 12 to 24 people who will benefit from this and the rest of the community will end up paying for it.”
Delaney said he hopes many people will come out and vote against going wet.
“We need to put this question behind us,” Delaney said. “We need a definitive answer so we can move ahead.”