By a margin of 412 votes Hartselle citizens voted down a referendum to sale alcohol in the city for the third time in a decade.
“We’re feeling great. Just thankful – Thankful is the word I’d like to emphasize,” Jeff Johnson said.
This is the third time Johnson has lead political action group Families for Safe Hartselle as Chairman against alcohol sales in Hartselle.
“To me it says that people like Hartselle the way it is – that Hartselle is what a hometown should be,” Johnson said.
The group’s mission was to preserve “Hartselle’s hometown heritage.” They were joined by political action group A Better Way who asked citizens to vote no against alcohol by posting “U Prayed?” signs around town.
In the Tuesday, Nov. 6 municipal election 6,544 citizens turned out to vote on the issue. The dry vote defeating the wet vote 3,478 to 3,066 votes, a difference of 412 votes.
In the November 2010 special election the decision for Hartselle to authorize the legal sale of alcohol was voted down by 467 votes, and previously voted down also in 2002.
“One of the things I think is good to keep in prospective is that it costs the city $15,000 every time the alcohol referendum goes to vote,” Johnson said.
If it goes to vote again in 2014 it would have costs $60,000 total, he said.
“My suggestion is that it’s time to move on from the alcohol issue, move past that and find another way for revenue,” Johnson said. “My suggestion is to go back to the Hartselle 2020 Comprehensive Plan as a basis for any plan.
There were great suggestions under the 2004 15-year strategic plan that did not mention alcohol, he said.
A difference of opinion
Chairman for Hartselle Citizens for Economic Development Bob Francis maintains that legal sales of alcohol is a good business decision for the city.
“I reflect back on this and naturally the campaign outcome is a disappointment,” he said.
However, Francis, who is also on the city’s economic development committee, says his main concern is still focused on Hartselle’s ability to recruit business.
“I know how difficult it’s been without legalized sales, with all of our competition in the regions of North Alabama having legalized sales,” he said. “This referendum is a business decision and I firmly believe that it was nothing to do with the alleged demise of Hartselle... There was good intent on both sides. It’s very difficult, I respect that.”
Francis said Hartselle Citizens for Economic Development will seek a referendum to sale alcohol in Hartselle again in 2014.
Separate but together
Though the political action groups battled on opposite sides on the alcohol issue they can agree on two things – the 2012 election is over, and now is the time to come back united as the community of Hartselle.
“I think that you will see in the near future these three to come back together to promote something positive in Hartselle,” Francis said. “These three factions will come together in a coalition to promote a positive initiative in Hartselle.”
“Let’s come together in a manner that all can agree on and do something positive for the city,” he said.
Neither party would mention particulars on projects they would be working together on, but said they would meet soon to discuss which charitable efforts or capital projects they would team up on.
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