By Daniel Brunty The Winston County Journal
Last year, residents of Winston County were presented with a petition that called for a vote to legalize liquor and wine on the November ballot.
With the liquor referendum on the ballot, residents’ opinions were split. Opposers of the referendum were very adamant in their stance, and some even took to campaigning against the referendum as well as other forms of opposing it. Supporters of the referendum said it would add to the tax revenue and also be an economic development tool to bring more business to the area.
After the approval of the sale of liquor last November, many were expecting a negative effect on the county, while others were looking for economic boost for Winston County. Almost eight months after the approval, both supporters and opposers can look at the financial as well as effects on alcohol-related crimes in the county and city.
As far as the economical effect that the liquor ordinance has had on the city and county, it is hard to determine exactly if there is a direct correlation to it.
When comparing the first six months of the city sales tax revenue last year to the first six months this year, the city has collected $61,000 more this year. With no certain method to determine the exact number of those dollars are from the liquor ordinance and the recent trend of a steady rise in sales tax revenue by the city, it is hard to say that this is the cause of the increase. However, the correlation of the increase is not just a coincidence, with liquor sales being steady in all the liquor stores.
Louisville Package Store owner Karen Stewart has seen a good, steady base of customers visiting her store. “It has been excellent,” Stewart said. “It started out slow, but it gradually built up.”
Stewart feels that the business is a benefit to the community and not a nuisance. “The sales revenue the liquor store brings in means more money for the city,” Stewart said. “It feel like that extra money will improve the city by repairing roads, or hire another fireman or policeman.”
As far as the effects on alcohol-related crimes in the county and city, those are a work still in progress. With such little time since the opening of the first liquor store, it is hard to determine if there is an increase or decrease in these rates.
Louisville Police Department Chief of Police L.M. Claiborne spoke on the relevance of the ordinance regarding crime in the city. “With it being just a short while since the ordinance, we don’t have any documented evidence that alcohol related crime of any type, including DUI’s, has risen any since then,” Claiborne said. “There is nothing we do on a daily basis that would indicate to us that there is a change. As far as right now, everything is about the same.”
In regards to the amount of alcohol-related crimes, the Winston- Choctaw Regional Correctional Facility provided a comparison of statistics for current inmates charges. By using current inmate charges from different time ranges, it can be used to see if there has been an increase or decrease in those crimes.
The current inmate charges from July 2011 through January 2012 shown that there were 176 total alcohol-related charges ranging from DUI’S, public intoxication, and others.
These were compared to current inmate charges from February 2012 until June 2012. In that period there were 144 total alcohol-related charges. With the first time range being for seven months and the other five months, the number of charges after the ordinance are similar to the number before the ordinance. This is not to say that the next couple of months will not be an increase, but at this point in time, there seems to be no change in the rates.
With such a small amount of time lapsing between the opening of the first liquor store in the county, neither opposers nor supporters can tell what type of affect this has had on the community. The measurement of its affects, however, will not only be judged statistically, but more importantly by the practical application of its effects on the quality of life in the county.