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Commissioners set Henderson alcohol election

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Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 4:00 am | Updated: 6:21 am, Wed Nov 9, 2011.

HENDERSON — Henderson voters will get to vote on two proposals to legalize alcohol sales in the city.

The Rusk County Commissioners Court on Monday ordered the issue be put to voters on the November ballot.

County Judge Joel Hale and Elections Administrator Kathie Wittner emphasized that county officials were neither supporting nor opposing the propositions. After having been presented with valid petitions requesting the propositions be placed on a ballot, the court was legally required to call the election.

The petitions required at least 997 valid signatures. Wittner has verified each petition had more than 1,100 valid signatures.

“State law doesn’t really give the court any options on this issue,” Wittner said. “Just because the commissioners order the election, that doesn’t mean they’re in favor of the propositions.”

The election is set for Nov. 8. Although state law requires the county court to call the election, the proposals affect only Henderson, and only people who live within the city limits will be eligible to vote. Joel Hale is the only member of the court who lives in Henderson.

The first proposal would legalize the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption. The second would allow for the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders.

Henderson resident Lanette Weaver spoke against the propositions during the public comments section of the meeting.

“I’m very opposed to it,” she said. “I’ve already lost two family members due to drunk driving, and I don’t want to lose any more. This proposal will just lead to honky-tonks all around Henderson.”

Weaver said she plans to form a political action committee to oppose the propositions. She asked Wittner if it had been legal for supporters of the proposition to garner signatures for the petition at a location that was within 300 feet of a school, because the sale of alcoholic beverages are prohibited in such areas.

Wittner said that soliciting signatures for a petition at the location was not illegal.

Mike Smith, a member of the Henderson 1st Committee that ran the petition drive, also spoke to the court.

“I didn’t know we were going to debate this issue here, but I believe these proposals would improve the economic situation of our city, by increasing the sales tax revenues and encouraging more businesses to open in Henderson,” he said.

In other business, the court heard a proposal from County Tax Assessor-Collector Matt Gabriel on the effective tax rate calculations. The county will have to adopt a tax rate of 0.4207 cents per $100 valuation — up from the rate of 0.3784 cents per $100 valuation — in order to bring in the same amount of revenue it has had this year, she said.

“I reported last week that our values were down and when values go down, rates have to go up to maintain the same revenue,” Gabriel said.

The court will conduct a budget workshop to discuss the tax rate and other issues at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Commissioners will vote on the tax rate at a future meeting, but not until after one or more budget workshops are conducted, Joel Hale said.

The court also recognized five members of the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office who won a total of 25 medals at the 2011 Police Games in DeSoto this summer. The officers are Jimmie Johnson, Luke Heim, Jimmy Candie, Nathan Parker and Reynaldo Consemiu.

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