Local Features
11:16 am
Fri May 29, 2009

Alcohol Sales Debated in Trigg

Cadiz, KY – Trigg County residents have started a group that favors the legalization of alcohol sales. The coalition, called Grow Trigg, says allowing alcohol sales will bring much-needed tourism and tax dollars to their struggling economy. And though group members have a fair share of supporters, they've met stringent opposition from those who say the possible benefits wouldn't outweigh the detriment both fiscally and socially that alcohol sales could bring. Carrie Pond has more.

Grow Trigg has acquired more than 850 signatures on its petition. The group's next meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Barkley State Resort Park. Trigg Citizens against Alcohol meets Thursday June 11th at Cadiz Baptist Church.

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Jan Culwell and her husband moved to Trigg County 3 years ago. Having lived in Kentucky for 15 years, Culwell knew many counties in the state are dry. But Culwell says she didn't realize how much money left those areas as result of prohibition until she came to Trigg and had to leave the county to make her purchases.

When I got out of town to buy wine, I also buy my groceries and I buy hardware and I buy lumber and I have a meal and I fill up my tank. And it just occurred me with a 15.3 percent unemployment rate in Trigg County, Trigg County needs that money. They need for it to be spent there and be re-spent there. Money will circulate in a little town, whereas if I take it out of the county it's never coming back.

So Culwell and her husband have organized Grow Trigg in hopes bringing the issue to a vote. They've started a petition to get the item on a ballot by the end of the year. Culwell says they're required to get signatures from 1,665 registered voters, but they've set a goal of 1,800 to ensure there are sufficient signatures. Last year, a petition to allow liquor-by-the-drink sales at Arrowhead Golf Course failed after Judge C-A Woodall deemed it an illegal petition.

If folks like Archie Brock are any indication, Grow Trigg could have trouble drumming up support this time around. Brock, who's lived in the area for 65 years, is the associate director of Trigg Citizens against Alcohol, a group that's protesting the petition.

We believe that that's the basic issue what's good for our people as a whole? And we believe that our county is far better off as we are than we would be with the legal sales of alcohol.

Brock says Grow Trigg's promises of economic development don't pan out he says the amount of tax dollars spent on preventative occurrences like drunk driving could very well outweigh any benefit derived from alcohol sales.

Then of course you've got an increase on the local police force to enforce the law, the incarceration of people who are law violators because of alcohol.

Professor Emeritus of Sociology at State University of New York at Potsdam David Hanson suggests one of Brock's concerns may be unfounded. Hanson, who has researched alcohol and drinking for 40 years, found that a higher proportion of dry county residents are involved in alcohol-related crashes than those from wet counties. He hypothesizes dry county residents drive farther from their homes to consume alcohol, increasing their chances of driving while impaired.

I mean it's a big thing wink, wink we're a dry county but we're the wettest dry county.

That's Greg Batts, owner of Prizer Point Marina in Cadiz. He says alcohol is in Trigg County already tourists bring it when they're on vacation and local residents buy it from nearby Hopkinsville or Clarksville and legalizing the sale of alcohol wouldn't encourage people who don't already drink to start. He estimates he sends about 90 percent of the business from his 2500 daily customers outside the county. He says his patrons include those from all over the world, and most aren't used to the concept of a dry county.

People are looking to get what they're used to getting anywhere else in the United States. So we can't in good faith send someone into Trigg County or even some of the surrounding towns around here knowing they're going to be disappointed. They're not going to come back and visit us again.

Batts says tourism dollars don't just include quick trips to restaurants or convenience stores. Most tourists stock up on supplies all at once, and if they've traveled out of the area for the weekend's six pack, they're spending money on other necessities as well and the county's missing out on that much-needed revenue.

But Archie Brock says that revenue still doesn't outweigh what's most important to him the quality of the Trigg County community. He says it's common sense that if alcohol is more widely available, more people will drink, especially those underage. Professor at Murray State University James Lavalle says Brock may have a point there.

As young people we tend to be relatively fearless. It would probable some would say "well let's see what this drinking thing is all about." And that could kick start some bad behaviors in limited numbers of let's say, late teens, early young adults.

He does add though, that research shows that adults typically don't change their drinking habits based on the availability of alcohol they tend to follow their social and moral commitments. Based on Trigg County's history, he says he doubts it would change much for the community to allow alcohol sales.

Prohibition doesn't work. The people who didn't drink before prohibition still didn't drink. The people who drank after prohibition drank. They just did it in underground speakeasies.

Jan Culwell says she and others like her in the community will continue to buy wine, no matter if they can get it at home or the next county over. She'd just prefer her money stay in Trigg County.