August 22, 2017 10:24:56 AM
Ward 3 Alderman David Little will not call for a non-binding public vote on two proposed changes to Starkville's alcohol ordinances after the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office informed him a November referendum must be paid for and administered by the city.
Little, who previously supported adding the issue to the county's Nov. 7 special elections, said state election officials told him Monday the city could proceed with its own election, but it is too late to add the matter onto the county's ballots.
Depending on whether the city utilized paper ballots or voting machines, the cost of a citywide referendum ranges between $3,230 and $6,761, City Clerk Lesa Hardin said.
Faced with those costs, Little said he would "allow the process to continue" at the board table without pushing for a special election.
"I was thinking cost and convenience knowing the county was holding its own election, but now we're back to the drawing board," he said. "I would not put the city through a special election process like this. We're capable of making a decision, one way or another."
Little is seen as the swing vote on changes that would put Starkville's alcohol laws in line with state statute. One would reduce the distance from a church or school that alcohol can be sold from commercial properties by the drink, and the other would allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol up to 1 a.m. each day.
The city's current rules restrict alcohol sales by the drink to at least 250 feet from churches, schools and funeral homes.
Starkville's bars and restaurants, according to the current code, must also conclude alcohol sales at midnight Tuesdays through Fridays when counting Monday through Thursday as the official day sales began; Saturdays and Sundays at 1 a.m. when sales began Friday and Saturday; Sundays again at 10 p.m. when sales began that day; and 1 a.m. the day after a Mississippi State University home football game falls on a weekday.
A third change, which Little said should occur without debate, is a clerical one in nature that would allow Starkville to sell beer with an 8-percent alcohol content. State lawmakers increased the alcohol content restriction to 8 percent in 2012.
The changes were presented to aldermen Aug. 11 by Mayor Lynn Spruill after Starkville Main Street Association, on behalf of downtown businesses and restaurants, sent a letter to the city earlier this month requesting adjustments.
Public hearings on the changes were scheduled for Sept. 5 and 19 after Little joined Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller in supporting the matter last week.
Before Little announced he would no longer push for a special election, Spruill said aldermen were elected "to make these decisions" and a non-binding resolution would not give all parties adequate input.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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