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Will alcohol sales vote be on the ballot this year?

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By Zach Johnson

If you tally up the results from the August 2016 vote county wide, the City of Liberty would have legalized alcohol sales by a vote of 251-223. 

The issue has been brought up for vote twice in the last seven years, but will it come to a vote again this year? The entire county won’t vote this year, due to Kentucky law prohibiting a vote more than once every three years, with the last vote coming in August 2016. However, the issue could be on the ballot for voters in the City of Liberty.

The last citywide vote on the wet or dry issue came in May of 2010, and in that vote it failed by a vote of 376-303; however, it could be a different result this time around.

Proponents for alcohol sales point to the economic impact that the sale of alcohol could have on Casey County.

Liberty-Casey County Economic Development Authority Director Josh Switzer shared studies that his committee has conducted on the amount of money that Casey County is losing out on each year. A study in 2016 from the Lake Cumberland Area Development District, gauged the economic impact of certain conditions, giving them a retail marketplace profile of Casey County.

“Essentially it showed us how much we’re either bringing in or losing in different areas,” said Switzer.

The study found that with just the absence of beer, wine and liquor stores in the county, they are losing a lot of money.

“We’re losing almost $1.5 million a year. Add in drinking places where you can get alcoholic beverages, we are losing almost $158,000 a year in sit down drinking places” said Switzer.

In addition, Casey County has a retail gap of $310,000 in grocery stores.

“How much of that money could stay here if people were not going out of town to purchase alcohol? I cannot give you conclusive evidence that says for sure, but common sense would tell you some of that 1.5 million is going out when they’re buying groceries while they’re out,” said Switzer.

Those on the other side of the argument, who are for staying dry, have had strong support. In the latest efforts to make the county wet, many of the local pastors came together to host meetings, hand out information and even went door to door to educate people about the dangers of alcohol.

In addition many people wrote letters to the editor to the Casey County News explaining to people why the county needs to stay dry. They point to God’s word concerning the consumption of alcohol, the disease of alcoholism and how crippling of a disease it is for people and their families, and the threat of rising DUIs as results if the city or county became wet.

For the wet/dry issue to be on the ballot this year, there would have to be a petition turned in to Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, with signatures from 25 percent of those who voted in the last general election. The petition must not be in circulation for more then six months. After it is turned in, Davis and his staff would have 30 days to verify the names before it would officially be put to a vote.

As for the date of when the vote could be contested, Kentucky Law states that the election cannot be held earlier than 60 nor later than 90 days after the petition is filled with the county clerk.

In addition, the vote would have to be separate election from regular elections because state law states a wet/dry vote cannot be held on the same day or within 30 days of a regular election. County Judge/Executive Randy Dial would have to set a date if the city had a special election.