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Rockdale County considers referendum on Sunday alcohol sales

BOC plans town hall meeting on matter next month

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners is considering a resolution to add Sunday retail sales of alcohol to the presidential primary election in 2012.

Chairman Richard Oden raised the question of Sunday sales during Tuesday's budget hearing.

"I ask that question because, as the commissioner said, I can be at a restaurant with my wife and someone comes up and says 'We in Rockdale County want to see this, because we don't want to lose money to neighboring counties,'" Oden said. "I just want to ask the question so I know how to answer the question."

Cynthia Welch, Rockdale County elections supervisor, said the BOC would have to approve a resolution by Nov. 13 in order for Sunday sales to be added to the March ballot. The Board of Elections will have until Nov. 19 to call the election.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness suggested the county hold a town hall meeting to determine the interest in Sunday sales.

"I think that would be a great way to address it, so citizens have an open forum besides the BOC meetings," Van Ness said. "I've even heard that a lot of the independent liquor stores do not want this to happen, because then they're forced to be open on Sundays. So there's a whole group of people lobbying for it not to be the case."

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt raised concerns that March may not be the best time for the special election. Welch said about 49 percent of voters turned out in previous presidential primary elections, and March would be fine.

"It would depend on the goals of the BOC," Welch said. "On one side of the coin, you can start earning revenue from alcohol sales. And the other would be the public forum and all the discussions I've heard about why people are rushing to put [Sunday sales] on the ballot, you have several that will have it on the November ballot."

A Nov. 1 town hall meeting, held in conjunction with the BOC work session, was proposed by the commissioners Tuesday. Van Ness said she would like to hold a town hall meeting on the subject in the near, rather than distant, future.

"I have to say, I'm in agreement with Commissioner Van Ness about the town hall meeting," Nesbitt said. "I think it would be good to get the input and feedback from our residents about their concerns about Sunday alcohol sales. Yes, there are a lot of folks in the business community who would love to have this on the ballot and move forward so they could capture those revenues for the 2012 year."

The county's discussion concerning Sunday sales follows closely to a September discussion by the Conyers City Council. The city voted not to hold a special election for Sunday sales in November citing lack of interest and budget concerns.

The commissioners agreed they wanted to move forward with the resolution and the town hall meeting.

"This is totally up to the people," Nesbitt said. "For those not in favor of it, they need to show up."