Houston County residents to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

chwright@macon.comMarch 20, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County residents will vote on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales in the unincorporated areas of the county July 31, Houston County commissioners decided Tuesday.

“The three cities in the county have already had the opportunity to vote on this,” said Commissioner Tom McMichael. “We’ve had several inquiries by the various golf courses and (other businesses) asking why we haven’t.”

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to add two referendums to the July 31 ballot, posing the same Sunday liquor sales questions that several Middle Georgia communities passed in November.

The first referendum will be about by-the-drink sales, and the second will address package sales.

State legislators lifted a ban last year against sales of packaged alcohol drinks on Sundays, prompting a rash of referendum votes across the state. So far, most have passed, including in Bibb County, Macon, Warner Robins, Byron, Perry and Centerville. Voters in Warner Robins Perry and Byron also passed referendums for by the drink sales.

Peach County commissioners said last week they will also call for Sunday sales votes, but it may be too late for the July 31 ballot.

If referendums in Houston County pass, the decisions would be effective Aug. 12, according to the resolutions commissioners passed. Houston Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said regulations would mirror the three cities.

Two public hearings will be held ahead of the July 31 vote, in case it passes, for comment on the regulations of Sunday sales.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that says the county will levy a tax against residents if the Houston County school board defaults on $43.6 million in bonds the school board issued after an education special purpose local option sales tax passed last year.

Commissioners and County Attorney Mike Long said it is unlikely the county would need to cover the school board’s debt, and the back-up plan is just a formality.

Stalnaker said the penny sales tax would not generate less than needed for the bonds “unless something terrible happens in this county. And, if that happens, we have bigger problems than this.”

Resident Walt Wood told commissioners he thought they should have asked more questions about the school board’s decision to issue bonds for the planned special purpose local option sales tax for education projects.

He said taxpayers had not been previously informed the school board planned to do so or that taxpayers would be on the line in case those bonds defaulted.

Commissioners also accepted a bid of $114,896.13 for the purchase of 20 mobile data terminals for Houston County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles. A Justice Assistance Grant will pay $19,896.13 of the cost, and funds from the general fund will pay for the rest.

The laptop-like devices were approved in the 2012 SPLOST this month.

McMichael said money budgeted for the devices in the county’s fiscal 2012 budget will be used to purchase the equipment ahead of the SPLOST funds being generated. The SPLOST money will pay back the county, he said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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