July 22, 2009 10:59:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
The latest debate over Sunday alcohol sales heated up Tuesday in Starkville.
Newly elected Alderman Jeremiah Dumas brought the issue to the table when, during a marathon meeting in City Hall, he and his fellow aldermen agreed to hold two public hearings next month to discuss the issue. The board is considering amendments to the city''s code of ordinances which would allow alcohol sales seven days a week.
The city''s existing code of ordinances doesn''t allow Sunday sales, which has led to many Starkville residents and Mississippi State University students traveling to West Point and Columbus on Sundays to buy alcohol, Dumas said. Both West Point and Columbus allow Sunday sales.
Only Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr. voted against the public hearings. Calling the issue "very divisive," Carver said he would like to see the board wait at least six months before addressing the matter.
Perkins feels the city has more pressing matters to worry about, like infrastructure improvements and a new justice complex. He also cited religious and safety concerns.
"If people want to sell whiskey or drink whiskey, they have six long days to do it," Perkins said. "Sunday is the Lord''s day."
Vaughn also felt the city has more important issues to address and said many of his constituents don''t appear ready to support Sunday alcohol sales.
"I think we should just leave this alone," Vaughn said.
But Dumas wasn''t deterred and said the public hearings will allow the board to get a firsthand look at where city residents stand.
"If we really want to understand, wouldn''t it be prudent to have a public hearing to see how the community feels about this issue?" Dumas asked.
The economic impact of Sunday alcohol sales would not only benefit existing businesses in the city, Dumas said, but it might help attract more restaurants and companies. It also would give the city a progressive, pro-business image, he said.
Dumas also was critical of Perkins'' assertion that Sunday alcohol sales would lead to an increase in crime and drunken driving in the city.
"I think it''s unfair to assume some blanketed increase in crime (if Sunday sales are allowed)," Dumas said.
Dumas received support from Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey.
Sistrunk said she hopes the Sunday alcohol debate will remain civil and people "don''t make any moral judgments."
The first public hearing is scheduled during the board''s regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 4 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. The second hearing is set for the board''s following meeting on Aug. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.