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Register considers alcohol sales

    The Town of Register has called for a referendum to determine if package sales of distilled spirits - liquor - will be allowed in the city limits. The vote is scheduled for Nov. 6 and requires a simple majority in order to pass.
    Patricia Lanier, the election superintendent for Register, said the petition was filed on Oct. 1 and the public notice for the referendum was published in the Herald on Oct. 4. She outlined the criteria that was required in order to get the issue on the ballot.
    "What they had to have was 35 percent of the total registered voters who were registered to vote in the City of Register in the general election of 2006," said Lanier.
    According to city figures, there were 93 active voters in the 2006 election and 17 inactive voters for a total of 110 registered voters. Inactive voters are simply voters who did not vote in recent elections. So, petitioners needed 39 signatures for the petition to be valid.
    "We just want to have a smooth and easy election," said Lanier.
    Lisa Ryles currently holds a council seat in Register and is a candidate for mayor. She said that increasing revenue for the city was the primary motivation for getting the referendum on the ballot.
    "We have no real tax base in this town and the only revenue source we have is the water system - which is not a big money maker," said Ryles. "We had a town meeting this year and put on our agenda to talk about the possibility of levying taxes this year."
    She said citizens were not receptive to the idea of city property taxes. As a result, they decided to put the referendum before the voters.
    "It had been mentioned to us multiple times that [package sales] should be something we should consider," said Lanier. "It had to be something we put before the citizens."
    Kathleen O'Grady is also running for a city council seat in Register and is running unopposed. She agreed with Ryles.
    "Revenue. Revenue for the town. We don't impose taxes on our residents," said O'Grady. "The only source of revenue we have is the water bill. It's not enough to cover our expenses, including our aging water system. Rather than reach into our constituents pockets, we opted for the referendum."
    O'Grady said she hasn't come across anyone who has openly opposed the idea or that has said they plan to vote against the measure.
    "There has been very little talk about it, frankly," said O'Grady. "I have no real reason to believe it is not going to pass."
    There were three council members that circulated the petition - O'Grady, Ryles and fellow council member Laurie Pitts.
    According to the research done in Candler County and also the town of Newington, the city should be able to generate anywhere between $25,000 and $30,000 of additional revenue, annually.    
    "We should be able to double our meager bank account - another thirty grand a year," said O'Grady. "Maybe more if we're really popular."
    Ryles said Register is already dealing with the traffic resulting from package sales that are allowed just over the county line in Metter. She said it would be nice to see the upside as well.
    "We already have a lot of incidents on our court docket because of all the trips to Metter - so we have lots of speeding," said Ryles. "I'm not concerned about incidents going up because we have all the traffic coming through here now.
    "We're dealing with all the bad stuff but not getting any of - for lack of a better word - any of the good stuff. We're not getting any of the revenues but are dealing with all the problems," said Ryles.
    Ryles said numerous people have expressed interest in starting a package store since the announcement, but no one has specific plans.    
    "We have two empty stores on Highway 46 and one of them sold last month and one of them is in the process of selling now," Ryles said. "Since they've sat empty for years, I assume that the referendum has something to do with the sales."
    "We assured the people that the situation will be closely monitored."

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