In Dec. 17 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
"Moist" issues continued to be the topic of discussion this week as the Russell County Fiscal Court set out to hire an administrator for local Alcoholic Beverage Commission licensure and an ordinance setting fees and taxes to be collected.
For the first time in over a year the courtroom was packed with voters and the members of the fiscal court who spoke said they'd been getting calls on the issue.
Getting to the crux of the situation one member of the audience asked, "Who decides where the boundaries are."
Aside from County Attorney Mark McGaha's comment that the Kentucky ABC agency is unclear on the answer to that there was no answer from the court.
County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner said throughout the meeting though that it would be the ABC which would decide which businesses would be issued the licenses.
The issue of the boundaries however has been the topic of discussion locally.
Some hold that the No vote in Jamestown is controlling in the city limits, while the Jamestown and Lake Precincts' Yes vote outside the city limits is germane only to the areas of the precincts outside the city limits.
The other opinion being expressed is that the precincts each voted to be wet, and they hold that a precinct can not be divided part wet, part dry therefore all of Lake and Jamestown Precincts would be wet and that includes those parts of the precincts within the city.
The issue became heated earlier in the day as McGaha said in an interview that Garner came into his office, knocking things from his desk and using very inappropriate language to express his position.
"I realized I was getting loud as well, though I never used the profanity he did, but I asked him to leave," McGaha said. "I realized he was making both of us look bad."
McGaha said they were differing on the issue of the ordinance and the ABC administrator's position. The county attorney said his position is that the administrator can not approve applications inside the city.
McGaha said later in an interview that aside from the issue of the vote, there is the fact that it is the city's right to regulate businesses in the city, not the county's business to do so.
During the meeting Garner's statement was that the ABC would start issuing licenses 60 days after the vote, based on their own interpretation of the vote, and that if the county did not have an ordinance in place it would miss out on the chance to collect a 6-percent surcharge on the gross receipts on all alcoholic beverage sales.
A call to Jamestown Mayor Brooks Bates verified that the city is in the process of drafting an ordinance governing the sale of alcohol in restaurants within the city limits.
Bates said he anticipated the issue will be before the council at its next meeting.
Some in the audience of Monday night's court meeting questioned whether the vote was yet set in stone, since there remains a chance that someone will challenge it in court.
Garner questioned local attorney Robert Bertram, who was also in the audience, on the issue of a court challenge.
Bertram said his feeling was that the time to challenge the rulings by the circuit judge and appellant court that the election was to be held had since passed.
McGaha said that may be but the court laid out specific instructions on how voters could challenge the election after the votes were counted and he said that time has yet to expire.
In the end it was a Russell Springs business man who summed up what the court eventually agreed to do.
"This thing needs to be put to rest one way or the other," David Stephens said. He encouraged the court to press for an Attorney General opinion or a court ruling on what areas are moist or dry. Barring that at least an opinion from the ABC on what areas will be eligible for a restaurants to apply for a liquor license.
Any vote on the issues was delayed until the next meeting in January, or earlier if guidance can be obtained from Frankfort on the issue.
In other issues before the court —
• Sheriff Larry Bennett's budget and payroll was approved for the coming year.
• The fee account settlement and tax settlements from Bennett's office were accepted by the court.
• Bids for the construction of a county morgue at the site of the anticipated jail were opened read and accepted. The low bidder was Dry Branch Construction.
For the construction of a 30-foot by 50-foot building with a small office space inside the low bid was $30,877.50 while the next lowest bid was about $7,000 higher and the other two were over $50,000.
After some discussion it was decided that the low bid would get the work, if the county approved construction of a new jail at the site when bids are opened later this month.
• The second readings of three ordinances were approved.
One corrected and updated the county's administrative code, another modified the budget to accept a grant issued to the ambulance district and the third approved a program to insure that those who have animals seized in cruelty cases pay the animal shelter for the care and treatment of the animals seized.