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See poll results on Sigman, alcohol sales
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This week's question:
Alternative energy vehicles are slowly becoming more popular. Locals have recently been test driving new electric-powered Chevy Volts, while area governments, including Covington, are considering building compressed natural gas facilities and converting part of their fleets to run on natural gas, which is generally quite a bit cheaper than gasoline on a per gallon basis.

Would you consider buying an electric or compressed natural gas-powered car within the next couple of years?

Vote here, see the results next Sunday.

To see all of our past polls visit

The biggest news of the week was clearly Covington mayoral candidate Bobby Sigman being arrested for allegedly paying people to steal the campaign signs of his opponent, Ronnie Johnston. He has been charged with three misdemeanors to date.

Some in the community, including The News' editorial board, have called for Sigman to drop out of the race. Sigman has said he is innocent and is forging ahead with his campaign.

We wanted to get the opinion of our readers, so we put up an online poll:

"After being charged with stealing signs from his competitor, should Bobby Sigman resign from the Covington mayoral race?"

Yes - 370 (92 percent)
No - 32 (8 percent)

We also received reader comments on our website and Facebook page. Melanie Hilton of Mansfield said "My gut says "yes," but my brain says that he needs to be PROVEN guilty in a court of law before he must resign from the race...."

Elisha M. Hunt said "I'm sorry but I have nothing positive to say about him!!! If he is given the opportunity to run and gets into office what does that say about not only the community but about how he will (and obviously does) do things..."

Second poll: Alcohol by the drink sales in unincorporated Newton County

Newton County is a partially dry county, meaning that businesses in unincorporated Newton can sell packaged beer and wine, but they cannot sell single drinks of beer, wine or liquor.

That's expected to change during the November 2012 election.The Newton County Board of Commissioners has yet to vote to put alcohol by-the-drink sales - such as drinks sold in a restaurant - on the ballot, but commissioners Tim Fleming, Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims have said they support a public vote.

The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce also requested that the issue be placed on the November 2012 ballot.

If the measure makes it to the ballot, it will pass overwhelmingly if the opinions of Covington News readers are any indication.

In The News' weekly online, unscientific poll, 74.7 percent of voters (246 votes) said they vote in favor of allowing by-the-drink sales in the county.

By-the-drink sales have long been a point of contention within Newton County.

The chamber and developers argue that major chain restaurants will not locate in Newton County if they cannot sell alcoholic drinks. Restaurants are generally considered fundamental components of shopping centers. Therefore, a lack of restaurants will lead to a lack of retail in general.

The chamber surveyed 209 business members in 2010, and 88 percent said they would support an ordinance that allowed by-the-drink sales in restaurants and hotels in the unincorporated county.

Opponents of by-the-drink sales either have moral objections or believe that increased alcohol sales will lead to an increased number of drunk drivers and alcohol-related incidents.

Both sides offer counter arguments. If by-the-drink brings in chain restaurants and retail stories, why does Covington - which has by-the-drink sales - remain largely devoid of such stores?

On the other hand, some studies conclude that being a dry county does nothing to reduce drunk-driving incidents, because residents of dry counties will simply drive to surrounding counties to have a drink.

Both sides are in agreement that - if by-the-drink sales exist - they don't want bars in Newton County and would like to see by-the-drink sales restricted to certain parts of the county, namely more densely populated, commercial areas.

Alcohol by the drink was last brought to a public vote in the 1998 General Election. More than 11,000 voters turned out that year, and 53 percent of them voted against the referendum, according to a previous article in The Covington News.

Next Steps
The board of commissioners is expected to have a work session in November or December to discuss the issue, Chairman Kathy Morgan said. The board will work on a potential ordinance that would prevent the formation of bars - by requiring 50 percent or more of sales to come from food - and would limit by-the-drink sales to certain zoning areas.

Morgan then hopes to schedule another public meeting in January, to discuss the issue further at the board's annual retreat in February and, finally, have the board approve in March both an ordinance and a resolution calling for a public vote.

Sunday sales different
Even if the public approves by-the-drink sales, restaurants in unincorporated Newton County still would be prohibited from selling alcohol on Sundays.

Morgan said the board will discuss Sunday by-the-drink sales, but the issue is generally only important to restaurants that have a lot of TVs and show football games and other sports on Sundays.

"If it's just going to be a restaurant for friends and family to eat a meal it's not that important to them, but if it's a sports restaurant, they say that's critical for them," Morgan said Friday.

In addition, Sunday by-the-drink sales are different from Sunday package sales. It can get confusing. There has not yet been serious discussion about adding Sunday package sales to unincorporated Newton. However, Covington and Porterdale will both vote on Sunday package sales this fall.