Rockdale residents speak out on Sunday retail alcohol sales

Photo by Paul Murphy 

Photo by Paul Murphy 

CONYERS -- Opinions on Sunday retail alcohol sales in Rockdale County will have a second chance to be heard.

The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will use a portion of its Nov. 8 regular meeting to hear public comment on the topic of Sunday alcohol sales. The BOC has a resolution to approve a referendum on Sunday retail alcohol sales on its Nov. 8 regular meeting agenda.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said at a town hall meeting Tuesday night the BOC wanted to hear from as many residents as possible.

"So often, we hear from the very same people all the time, but this was an open opportunity for residents to meet with us face to face," she said.

During the town hall meeting some residents suggested job growth as one of the benefits of Sunday package sales.

Fermell Jordan, Rockdale resident and owner of Subs 2 Go, said there were some economic benefits for Sunday package sales.

"I think it would create more jobs and revenue in the community," she said.

Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden said economic considerations were a big part of the Sunday sales resolution.

"We at the local level government are dealing with the fact that we have to find revenue," Oden said. "There's a list of other counties and cities that are putting this on the ballot because they are stretched for revenue ... We want to present the opportunity so we can continue to be somewhat competitive as we move forward."

Others said sales could lead to increased alcohol-related problems for the county.

DeSandra Sawyer, Rockdale resident and local pastor, said she did not support Sunday package sales.

"There are enough things for children to get into, for young people to get into, for them to open the door to another time slot for alcohol sales," she said. "Rockdale County cannot afford to jump on the bandwagon."

Sawyer said she runs a men's ministry and has experience working with alcoholism in the Rockdale community.

"Alcohol is a huge, huge demon in our community," she said. "I am totally against it from the standpoint of the church, from the standpoint of being a single mother in this community, and just from being a citizen."

C.J. Lester, a Rockdale resident, read a statement by Edward Tracey, owner of EdwardCTracey.com.

Tracey wrote that, based on his experiences, he had seen the negative effects alcohol could have on a community. He also said there was an economic downside to Sunday retail alcohol sales.

"Why do you feel the need to rush this to the ballot?" Tracey's statement said. "This will force 'mom and pop' liquor store owners to work seven days a week or lose their sales to big chain stores."

Tracey encouraged the commissioners to keep Sunday sales off the ballot.

"We don't have to put this on the ballot," he wrote. "Have courage to do the right thing -- stop the madness."

Rockdale County resident Jacquiline Johnson-Dickson said Tracey made some valid points about alcoholism; however, she would like to see some additional facts about alcoholism and alcohol.

"We have a health department, we have a jail, and I think it probably would not be a bad idea if we asked those, or anyone affected, if they could collect some data on alcoholism," Johnson-Dickson said.

Van Ness and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt encouraged citizens to continue to get in touch with the BOC concerning this issue.

"We are not making the decision. If this ends up on the ballot, the people of Rockdale will be making this decision," Nesbitt said. "Speak up, speak out -- take advantage of this opportunity."

Rockdale County officials announced plans to add a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales to the ballot for the March 6 Presidential Preference Primary.

The city of Conyers is considering a similar referendum within the city limits in separate action from the county.

Rockdale County commissioners may be reached by email at richard.oden@rockdalecounty.org, janice.vanness@rockdalecounty.org and oz.nesbitt@rockdalecounty.org.