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City considers alcohol sales referendum
Council briefly discusses possibility of public vote
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Though for only a brief moment, the permitting of Sunday alcohol sales in the City of Statesboro became a topic of discussion Tuesday during a regularly scheduled Council meeting in City Hall.
    Near meeting’s end, City Manager Frank Parker introduced, for the first time at a public gathering of councilmen, the notion of introducing a referendum for November’s general election that would allow for the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
    “I would like to get some direction from Council — because I have received many comments from the public and members of council — as to whether we need to bring before council at the next meeting a first reading or resolution in regard to Sunday alcohol sales,” said Parker. “If council chooses this issue to be one that should reach the ballot this November, it is an issue that the city needs to address in July.”
    An end result of the short discussion — at the request of Mayor Joe Brannen — will be Staff Attorney Michael Graves working to gather information and prepare drafts of referendums to present to Council for review in its July 6 meeting.
    “There will be two referendums presenting two different questions for voters to answer,” said Graves. “Voters can choose whether they want Sunday alcohol sales for restaurants and whether they want to allow package sales.”
    “We may have the proposed referendums ready for the next meeting, but it sounds like council is still in the information stage,” he said.     Though resolutions to permit the referendums should be prepared in time for Council’s next meeting, a vote to approve or deny a first reading will likely not take place until July’s second meeting, said Graves.
    “I would like to know more about the resolutions and all of the options,” said Councilman Will Britt. “But we do need to begin drafting something and start looking at the possibility of having a referendum.”
    Ideally, once a resolution is in place, councilmen would vote on a first and second/final reading in consecutive meetings, while hosting a public forum in between the two for community input, he said.
    According to Graves, the city will have a relatively lenient timeline with which to approve resolutions permitting referendums. A final decision must be rendered and submitted to the United States Department of Justice at least 30 days prior to the items appearing on November’s ballot, he said.
    Since April, when Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill allowing communities to decide whether to allow sales of alcohol on Sundays, each of Statesboro’s councilmen have acknowledged that they would vote to allow a referendum.
    If approved, the referendums would appear on ballots in Statesboro on November 8.
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.

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