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Process begins for Sunday alcohol sales

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

During the regular meeting of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners on Monday, June 10, the commissioners considered drafting an ordinance that would allow for alcohol sales on Sundays. Discussion of the matter was the result of vendors in Pinetta and Cherry Lake informing the commissioners that they were losing revenue due to not being able to sell beverages such as beer on Sundays.

"These retailers are there, they're paying taxes, they're paying insurance, they're paying salaries; and they're losing revenue, especially in Cherry Lake," said Commissioner Donnie Waldrep. "Just about every Sunday, people are showing up at the store to buy beer. They can't, and they leave and possibly not buying gasoline, soft drinks or whatever things they may do." Commissioner Ronnie Moore expressed support for the idea of Sunday beer sales, stating that surrounding counties allow Sunday beer sales, putting Madison County stores at a disadvantage.

Currently, state statute prohibits alcohol sales between the hours of 12 a.m. and 7 a.m., unless otherwise allowed or restricted by local statute. Board attorney Tommy Reeves informed the commissioners that, if they so desired, they could draft an ordinance that would allow unrestricted sales, or the ordinance could default to the state statute. A motion was made and seconded to repeal the previous ordinance prohibiting alcohol sales on Sunday and default to the state statute allowing alcohol sales, except for the hours of 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. This ordinance would be for the unincorporated areas of the county. The motion was passed unanimously. Reeves will draft an ordinance that will go through the process of public hearings and votes before becoming enacted.

Another issue discussed by the commissioners was a possible ordinance restricting the sale of tobacco products within 500 to 1,000 feet of a school in the unincorporated areas of Madison County. A par of students made a presentation to the commissioners asking for such an ordinance. There are retailers that would be affected by an ordinance such as this. Commissioner Waldrep expressed concern that such an ordinance could harm those retailers. "I don't smoke and I'm glad I quit, but I am worried about retailers who would be adversely affected," said Commissioner Waldrep. A motion was made, and seconded, to draft an ordinance that would restrict tobacco sales within 500 to 1,000 feet of a Madison County school in the unincorporated areas of the county, with a "grandfather" clause that would exempt current retailers as long as they continued in the same retail business, should the business ever change hands. The motion was passed unanimously. Reeves will draft a motion, which will go through the process of public hearings and votes by the commissioners.

In other business, the commissioners passed a proclamation honoring the family and descendants of James Bolden. Bolden was born to former slaves in 1876 in Georgia. At a young age, he boarded a train to seek better opportunities. He worked at several plantations, finally settling in the Hamburg area of Madison County. He married and began farming and raising a family there. Many of his descendants still own farmland and live in the Hamburg area. The family has been a part of Madison County since the late 1800s.

Madison County Supervisor of Elections, Tommy Hardee addressed the commissioners about the upcoming 2020 election. Hardee asked about the possibility of designating parking places in front of the Supervisor of Elections office for 15-minute parking on election day. Since Pinckney Street is a city street, this may be an issue for the Madison City Commission to consider. Hardee said the response to having the various voting locations at which any voter could vote, regardless of precinct, during the most recent election, was very positive. Hardee stated that he would like to get alternates for the local canvassing board. There will be a workshop for the canvassing board on Friday, Oct. 18. Hardee would like for members of the canvassing board and their alternates to attend this workshop. Hardee expressed concern over a possible requirement to provide Spanish language ballots in all the counties in Florida, regardless of the number of Spanish speaking people in the county. This would call for a significant expense for the Supervisor of Elections office. Hardee stated that he is in favor of making voting easy and convenient for all voters, but such a requirement would put a strain on counties that are already under fiscal constraints. Hardee asked the commissioner to draft a letter to send to the governor expressing opposition to this requirement.

There is a special workshop meeting set for Thursday, June 20, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., at the Madison County Courthouse. The purpose of the meeting is to hear details from NextEra representatives regarding the proposed placement of high-voltage power lines through portions of Madison County. The meeting will take place in the main courtroom, room 200.

The next regular meeting of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners is set for Wednesday, June 26, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the board meeting room in the courthouse annex, located at 229 SW Pinckney St., in Madison.

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