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Posted: August 13, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Making sense by-the-drink alcohol sales

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Dear Editor: Over the past week I’ve pondered the alcohol by the drink situation, and read the letters to the editor. Let’s get a few facts straight on the overall situation:

— Dinner restaurants, particularly chains, will only locate where they can sell liquor. They (Olive Garden, Chili’s, etc.) will not even consider Newton County until alcohol by the glass is allowed.

— Hotels, stores and restaurants form the tripod of commercial development. If you lack one, the other two will not stand alone.

— Commercial, industrial and residential form our tax base. An ideal diverse tax base is that a minimum of 50 percent of the tax revenue is from other than residential property taxes. The higher, the better for the homeowners. Our county currently sits at only 22 percent from commercial/industrial.

— The county just had to cut back more services and enact the rollback millage rate (AKA raise our property taxes) because there isn’t enough tax revenue from current available sources.

— Industry wants to locate where there is good housing, potential employees, schools, recreation and entertainment. Ideally, you do like West Point is currently doing. Get the industry and the rest fall in line. The difference between there and here is that community is basically being built from the ground up around the KIA plant. And that some of our commissioners have their heads in the sand.

— Unfortunately industry is not enticed to locate here: we have huge impact fees, our schools are on the decline, we completely lack entertainment, shopping is limited and certainly not diverse, our housing (particularly on the west side) is dominated by low-end spec homes and our recreation services are being cut. Some members of our community are working hard to combat this downward spiral, but true change must be dealt with at the Board of Commissioner level.

— Tens of millions of dollars leave our county monthly to Rockdale, Walton, and Morgan counties by people simply wanting to shop and eat.

— The theory that drunk driving will increase if alcohol is sold in Newton County restaurants is absolutely false. Drunk drivers coming from restaurants, returning to their homes in Newton County are still driving in Newton County. If people are bent on drinking and driving, they will do it regardless of where the restaurant is located. The difference is that when they enter Newton County, they are already on the road. If they were drinking at a local restaurant, our law enforcement could catch them before they enter a vehicle. Currently, we are hoping that the Conyers Police Department stops them.

— JC Henderson said a study was needed to see the impact on law enforcement as a neighboring study was insufficient. First, Sheriff Brown has already stated they can handle it. And if he needs additional deputies, guess what? The tax revenue from the restaurants (and subsequent hotels and restaurants) will pay for it. Second, you have a local study — it’s called the Covington Police Department. They have been handling alcohol by the glass for several years now.

— At least two commissioners have said they have issue with endorsing alcohol by the drink based on their personal experiences. Reality check: as any alcoholic will tell you, if someone wants a drink, he is going to find a drink, and the problem is not the source of the alcohol, but the individual.

— The county is paying the Chamber of Commerce $50k annually to help with economic development, but then don’t listen to them.

So let’s get this accurate: the three commissioners (Henderson, Ewing, Simmons) last week indirectly, but blatantly, voted in a manner stating:

— They don’t trust voters to go to the polls and decide for themselves.

— They would rather increase our property taxes than consider alternatives.

— They don’t support commercial growth.

— We don’t need any more jobs in Newton County.

— It’s OK that we lose millions in tax revenue monthly to other counties.

— They don’t support industry locating in Newton County.

— They don’t support our schools as they just voted against commercial tax revenue and increased commercial property values.

— They don’t understand the economic environment our county is in. They said they needed studies and more time. Two voted on this eight years ago — how much more time? Do you actually need a study to understand the reality of above? How many more times can the Chamber tell you how much money we’re losing?

— They spend our tax dollars seeking advice (Chamber) but then won’t listen to it.

— They don’t understand all the above listed facts.

These commissioners are completely stuck in the mud. If they don’t wake up, our county will continue its negative trend. Our property taxes will increase. There will never be any opportunities for days out with the kids or a night out with the wife. Unemployment will remain high. We will remain a bedroom community. Schools will continue downward. Services will continue to be cut.


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