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City alcohol referendum discussions postponed

Gaines named mayor pro-tem

POSTED: September 12, 2012 4:00 a.m.

After further review, it appears the city of Dawsonville won't ask voters on Nov. 6 to consider allowing sales of distilled spirits by the drink on Sundays.

A second public hearing on the topic ended Monday night with the city council voting to postpone further discussion until November. That means the matter is unlikely to make the ballot until at least March.

The decision came at the urging of two local elections officials, who cited concerns over voter confusion, personnel, lack of space and inconvenience.

The referendum would have addressed what the city attorney has described as "an anomaly."

Package sales of wine, beer and bottled distilled spirits are currently allowed on Sundays inside the city limits, but not distilled spirits by the drink, according to City Attorney Dana Miles.

The Dawson County commission revised the county's alcohol ordinance in April following a March referendum on Sunday sales that voters approved by about 63 percent to 37 percent.

"This creates an anomaly because county restaurants can sell on Sundays between 12:30 p.m. and midnight and the city cannot," Miles said last month.

Monday night, council had anticipated possibly taking action on the matter after the hearing. But that was before members learned about the polling worries.

Local elections chairwoman Glenda Ferguson pleaded for the city to hold the special election on March 19 instead of Nov. 6.

"There is a lot of confusion for voters on such a big election day when we ask them to go through two separate lines, not to mention the logistics for our staff," she said. "On behalf of the board of elections, I come to you to say, ‘Please, reconsider.'"

She also said the city has yet to receive clearance to go forward with the election. As of Monday, the Department of Justice had not received the city's request, according to Ferguson.

Miles attributed that to a "catch-22" between federal and state laws.

"[Under federal law,] the Department of Justice wants 60 plus days on preclearance and you can't submit for preclearance until you call for the election, until the ordinance is passed," he said.

"But under state law related to the alcohol ordinance, you can't call for an election more than 60 days out. So it's impossible to comply with both."

Charles Vincent, a member of the board of elections and registration, also addressed officials Monday.

He said a special election on Nov. 6 would be an "inconvenience" since it coincides with the presidential election and special election for the two vacant city council seats.

He reflected on a similar situation in fall 2010, when two elections were held on separate ballots at the same time. He said it was "craziness."


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