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Area voters approve 4 alcohol-related measures

By Bridget Ortigo and Matthew Prosser
Nov. 4, 2014 at 5:46 p.m.

Voters overwhelmingly passed four area alcohol measures Tuesday following election day and early voting results in Rusk and Wood counties.

Because of a snag in the voting process, Harrison County results for Hallsville's alcohol election were not available as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday. A representative for the county said workers had started hand-counting ballots.

Across the state, 61 alcohol propositions were considered Tuesday.

Hallsville residents were deciding whether beer or wine could be purchased without traveling to Longview or Marshall.

"Residents could either go to Longview, Marshall or Kilgore to buy alcohol," Texas Petition Strategies representative John Hatch said on Tuesday. "They are surrounded, and stores like Brookshires (in Hallsville) are clearly at a competitive disadvantage."

Hatch was hired by local proponents to help gather signatures and support the proposition leading up to the election. He said Hallsville may be losing out on as much as $145,000 in sales tax revenue by residents driving to other cities.

The proposition would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer and wine inside city limits.

The only alcohol served in Hallsville is in restaurants with a private club membership.

"I'm for selling it in the stores and allowing everyone to make their own personal decision to buy it or not," resident Jay Barron said Tuesday.

"I'm voting against it," Hallsville resident Vernon Russell said Tuesday before voting. "I don't drink. I've seen people that use alcohol and I know it can lead to more vehicle accidents. Also, even though there is a certain age limit, kids can still get it, and we're better off without having it here."

"I feel it should be allowed," resident Josh Miller said Tuesday. "People can drive to Longview or Marshall. It's not really going to make much of an impact."

Fellow Hallsville resident Maurice Yielding disagreed.

"I don't think it pays its way," Yielding said Tuesday. "I'm voting 'no.' "

Hatch said the petition garnered more than 300 votes before being brought to the ballot.

Rusk County

Overton residents standing in line Tuesday to vote at the city community center were divided on the alcohol issue, but results came in favorably for the proposition.

The alcohol proposal passed with 300 votes for (64.94 percent) and 162 votes against (35.06 percent).

The proposition allows the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

Ryan Jackson said he doesn't drink, but sees how the sale of alcohol can be an economic benefit to the town.

"I'm voting for it, but I'm not really a drinker ... I prefer Dr Pepper, actually," Jackson said, laughing. "But I know a lot of people who live here that do. I don't think beer and wine not being sold in Overton has had impact in keeping people from drinking ... If they want to buy it they're going to buy it, so we might as well keep that money here."

Evelyn Williams said, while she understands the case for the proposition, she voted against the measure.

"I know it's all about the sales tax, and keeping Overton money in Overton, but I still don't think it's the best thing for our community," Williams said. "I would rather have to make do with less than make it big by selling something that destroys lives. There's better ways to improve a city than just legalizing things that are harmful."

In Overton, more than 190 people signed a petition to call the election, exceeding the mandatory mark of 142 signatures for the 2,500-resident town.

Robert Raney, who circulated the petition, said every city around Overton is wet.

"The city needs additional revenue. It is kind of ridiculous for everybody to be driving somewhere to buy their beers. Because they are going to buy it. Why not keep it at home?" Raney said in October.

Across the county, Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 voted for the alcohol proposition, with 653 votes in favor (62.13 percent) and 398 votes against (37.87 percent).

The vote will allow the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

Wood County

Two proposals to expand the sale of alcohol in Wood County changed the wet-dry lines in several East Texas cities on Tuesday.

It was a close decision in Quitman, where voters decided 251 (54.21 percent) to 212 (45.79 percent) to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption within the city limits.

Across the county, Justice of the Peace Pct. 3 voters decided to allow beer and wine sales in their territory, which includes Hawkins and Holly Lake Ranch. The vote came in at 1,687 (64.44 percent) for and 931 (35.56 percent) against.

For supporter Damon Young, the decision was simple.

"My brother and I own a convenience store business, and we look at it from an economic point of view, focusing on taxes and keeping that money in our county," Young said in October. "It's business. To compete in it you have to have available the products that your competitors are selling."

Hawkins voters have only weighed in on alcohol sales once since the 1940s when, in May 2011, the city rejected measures to approve the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption and the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders. Those motions were shot down 133 to 67 and 129 to 72, respectively.



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