Aldermen split over proposed changes to alcohol restrictions

From left: Mayor Lynn Spruill and Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’ Perkins discuss the proposal for a public hearing for a change in Starkville’s alcohol restrictions during the Board of Aldermen’s work session at City Hall on Friday. The proposal for a public hearing was placed on the consent agenda. (Photo By Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
LOGAN KIRKLAND
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen denied a motion to remove the proposed alcohol restriction public hearing from the agenda, allowing for the public hearing to be placed on the consent agenda during Friday’s work session at City Hall.

The vote tied at 3-3, with Mayor Lynn Spruill serving as the tie-breaking vote. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted to remove the public hearing from the agenda. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller voted to have a public hearing on the alcohol restrictions.

Ward 3 Alderman David Little was not present at the work session. Little, however, was watching through Facebook Live.

During the work session, Spruill brought up the proposed alcohol restrictions to the board to inquire about two public hearings before the board takes a vote.

The new regulations would adapt the minimum state statutes of allowing the sale of alcohol to be at least 100 feet from a school or church. Starkville’s current restriction is 250 feet.

These changes would also allow the sale of beer with an 8 percent alcohol content while the current restriction sits at 5 percent. Additionally, restaurants and bars would have the ability to sell alcohol up to 1 a.m. each day of the week.

Spruill hopes to have the board vote on having the first of two public hearings to be held at the first meeting in September. The second public hearing and vote would occur during the second meeting in September.

Perkins followed Spruill’s request to hold a public hearing on the restrictions by emphasizing Starkville is not required by law to have the minimum requirements.

During discussion, Carver interjected by asking Spruill if she has the votes in place before making the board go through the long process if it is only going to be rejected in the end.

Spruill said she spoke with certain aldermen, receiving support. The change in alcohol restrictions is something Spruill believes is in the best interest of Starkville.

“I am dragging you through this without an absolute of four votes in place,” Spruill said.

Carver then made a motion to remove the proposed public hearing from the consent agenda. The motion was seconded by Perkins.

During discussion, Miller asked what the reasoning was for the motion. Carver responded, saying it was due to constituents’ request.

Miller said if this is something the mayor wants, the board should at least call for a public hearing out of respect.

“I’d like to hear from the public and hear from the constituents regarding this matter,” Miller said. “To me, it would at least makes sense to put it on the agenda.”

Walker said he is not sure how he will vote on the issue, but he does want to hear from the public. He said it’s obvious this will affect people’s health, safety and the welfare of constituents, but would also impact the city’s budget.

“I think in order to balance the scale you have to hear both sides of the argument,” Walker said.

Carver told the SDN the reason he brought up the motion was to save the board time if there was not enough support to pass the proposed alcohol restrictions.

The proposed motion during the work session, Spruill said, came to her as a surprise. Spruill said she had not anticipated the work sessions would end up being voting sessions.

Spruill understands the importance of churches and the integral role it plays in the community, but she said entertainment and restaurants also need to succeed in
order to benefit the city.

The possibility, Spruill said, of only changing the ordinance in specific areas will not be able to help the city in the way she knows this ordinance can.

“Our downtown is surrounded by churches,” Spruill said. “We just have no room to move.”

When asked about procedure, Spruill said the opportunity for the board to take a vote is there because the board is technically in session.

“I do think that this is not intended for us to be taking action, it’s intended for it to be more dialogue and more work session than anything,” Spruill said. “I’m hoping that is a rare instance.”

OTHER BUSINESS:

• The board was presented with the proposals on a new road and drainage plan. This plan will include overlays, striping, base repairs, other roadway improvements and drainage flow.

• Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk discussed the city budget. The city has until Sept. 30 to approve the budget. Sistrunk said she is close to having a product in the hands of the aldermen.

• The board discussed the insurance for city employees.

• The board discussed the option of ticketing citizens who litter more frequently in order to help keep Starkville clean.

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