Statesboro City Council, meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, is slated to consider a first-reading vote on a liquor store ordinance that largely follows the minimum requirements of Georgia law.
But one significant added provision of the city ordinance, as drafted, calls for at least half of the excise tax revenue from liquor stores to go to nonprofit organizations that benefit youth and provide other social services in Statesboro.
Information and recommendations on the proposed city law governing the licensing of “package shops” is also on the agenda for the mayor and council’s 3 p.m. work session, also a public meeting but with no votes to be taken. The city officials expect to hear from the Bulloch Alcohol and Drug Council during that session.
If the council votes during the 5:30 p.m. regular meeting to send the proposed ordinance forward, it could then get a second reading and final vote at the next regular council meeting.
The provision directing revenue to youth programs and social services reflects instructions Mayor Jonathan McCollar gave the city attorney at the previous work session on the liquor store ordinance, Dec. 21.
“I want added that 50 percent of the revenue goes toward youth and social services,” McCollar said. “So we want that language written and have it ready and a part of this for the first reading in January.”
But District 4 Councilman John Riggs, who had previously expressed a desire to see the liquor store tax revenue dedicated to public safety spending, especially for policing, asked if the city could use the other 50% for that purpose.
“Public safety, in my opinion, is something that we’re going to pay for regardless,” McCollar said. “And so what I want to do is be able to expand city services to areas that are in need that have zero funding, whereas we put millions of dollars towards public safety.”
When the mayor said he didn’t think the police chief asks the mayor and council for anything he doesn’t get, Riggs reminded him that the city did not fund eight added police officer positions Police Chief Mike Broadhead requested in the current fiscal year budget. However, City Manager Charles Penny’s informal policy has been to allow Broadhead to hire a few additional officers beyond the currently authorized staffing level if it is reached.
Riggs wants patrols
During the Jan. 4 council meeting, Riggs again spoke for increasing the number of police officers as a deterrent to crime and related this specifically to a Dec. 22 incident in which a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver reported being robbed by several young people armed with guns. Statesboro police subsequently arrested four 17-year-olds, as adults, and one 16-year-old, as a juvenile, on multiple charges including armed robbery. Food items, not money, were reportedly taken.
“Specifically, we need more patrols, more police officers and more patrol cars,” Riggs said in a Jan. 4 interview. “If those five guys who robbed that pizza delivery (person), if there had been a patrol car riding through, that could have been avoided and these guys would never go to prison.”
Sometimes, just seeing police on patrol will cause people to change their minds about committing a crime, he suggested.
Riggs said he agrees with supporting youth programs, but not to the exclusion of increasing police patrols.
“You know, I do believe that children need something they can grow up doing, in a good way,” he said. “However, there are some bad people out there that need to be arrested and they need to go to prison.”
Asked that day how much revenue the addition of liquor stores to the city’s excise tax sources is expected to produce, Mayor McCollar said city officials have heard “everything from $300,000 on up.”
“It’s all speculative at this point, but what we do know is that we’ve got to begin to start making an investment into our young people and into our community, and what better way of being able to do that than by using a resource such as this to provide new services for people that are in the most vulnerable situations,” he said.
The last paragraph of the current Package Store Ordinance draft, as assembled by City Attorney Cain Smith, states: “ It shall be the stated policy goal of the City of Statesboro that a minimum of fifty percent (50%) of excise tax proceeds collected from Package Stores … be allocated to social services contracts with qualified 501(c)(3)nonprofit organizations to provide beneficial youth and other social services to the City of Statesboro and its citizenry.”
Closing time 10 p.m.
Other than local zoning, the only other point on which the current draft ordinance goes further than the basic state requirements is in setting a 10 p.m. closing time, whereas Smith had said a closing time as late as 11:45 p.m. was allowable under state law. The allowed hours for liquor stores to operate in Statesboro would 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The closing time was informally agreed to by a majority of council members when McCollar polled them Dec. 21. During that work session, the mayor and all council members informally agreed to allow liquor stores only in the CR, or commercial retail; CBD, or central business district; and HOC, or highway-oriented commercial, zones.
Tracking state law, the proposed ordinance sets minimum distances of 500 yards between any two liquor stores, 200 yards from any liquor store to any school, educational building or college campus and 100 yards to any church, state or county-owned alcohol treatment center or any housing authority property.
In the Nov. 2 city election, 74% of participating voters said “yes” to letting the mayor and council license stores for the sale of distilled spirits in Statesboro for the first time in memory.
The agenda for Tuesday’s 3 p.m. work session lists presentations on the 2021 city audit, the city’s employee clinic and the Downtown Master Plan before the two package store-related presentations.