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Sampson County Commissioners Scale Back Alcohol Referendum, Turkey Town Council Resolves to Oppose It, Voices of Opposition Build Momentum

By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 19, 2014

Sampson CounrtyTURKEY – Sampson County Commissioners looking to boost the local economy via alcohol sales have scaled back their plans for a referendum and now say the May 6 vote will include only the off-premise sale of beer and wine. Meanwhile, opponents to the referendum say small towns within the county that have remained “dry” for more than a century don’t appreciate those outside the town trying to decide their fate for them.

In fact, the Town Council of Turkey on Tuesday night passed a resolution opposing the referendum, asking the county government to reverse its stance, calling on residents to vote “no” and urging support for a new committee pushing back against alcohol forces.

“I grew up in this county and have spent most of my life here. I appreciate living in a community in the Turkey Township that has good values and does not promote the sale of alcohol,” Pastor Tony Moore told the media earlier this month. “I see the weak argument of county-wide alcohol sales bringing in more tax revenue to our county, yet we have not talked about the additional cost from tax revenue that our county will have to pay for alcohol related support services.” Moore, a member of the Turkey Town Council, said he also does not believe that a municipality should be forced to embrace alcohol sales, which is what will happen in Autryville, Harrells, Delway, Salemburg and Turkey if the referendum passes.

Moore and representatives from at least a dozen churches as well as a number of community organizations gathered March 11 to form an opposition group, Sampson Citizens for the Prevention of Countywide Alcohol Sales, which is set to meet again March 25 to further plan how to protect their community’s health and welfare.

“The referendum is about people — the public’s health, public safety,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, who addressed the group’s inaugural meeting. “This is not a matter that pertains to one demographic. It applies to the church and the unchurched; it applies to people of every religious background; it applies to those of no religious background… Alcohol use and abuse is far-reaching in its consequences.”

He said regulating outlet density is an absolute necessity of effective alcohol policy and that passing a referendum that allows for multiple purchase points for beer and wine throughout the county will work against the citizenry. Further, Dr. Creech reminded those in attendance that alcohol kills more people than all the illicit drugs — heroin, cocaine, etc. — combined. He said the amount of money garnered from the taxes on alcohol cover less than 10 percent of the cost it imparts to health care, the criminal justice system, and loss in workplace productivity.

Turkey’s resolution, signed by Mayor Tim Clifton and Commissioners Patsy Tew, Rudy Blackburn and Moore, and supported by Commissioner Mike Smith, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, argues that the social costs of alcohol abuse always outweigh any gains from sales and confirms that, rather than alcohol, local prosperity depends on the “genius, ingenuity and industriousness of the people of Sampson County.”

L-R: Patsy Tew, Rudy Blackburn and Tony Moore Center: Mayor Tim Clifton

L-R: Patsy Tew, Rudy Blackburn and Tony Moore
Center: Mayor Tim Clifton

The document, (Read Resolution by clicking here) which was to be forwarded to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, further reminds them that North Carolina’s underage drinking epidemic already costs the state some $1.5 billion each year and that increased alcohol outlets would make it potentially easier for youth to obtain alcohol.

According to The Sampson Independent, county commissioners initially planned to offer a full slate of alcohol sales options on the ballot, but narrowed it to two questions — off premise sales of malt beverages and off-premise sales of wine — in an effort to make the ballot simpler and, ultimately, to persuade voters to say yes. “You can have off-premises; then, as time passes, if people wanted to, you could come back and do others,” Commissioner Jefferson Strickland told the newspaper.

Dr. Creech urged area residents to learn more by attending the next Sampson Citizens for the Prevention of Countywide Alcohol Sales meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, at Clinton Community Church on Sunset Avenue, beside the Sampson Community College Campus in Clinton. For details, contact Tony Moore at 910-592-6782, e-mail or join the group via Facebook.