City says let voters decide on liquor

By PAT BROWN,

The City of Magee is positioning itself to allow voters to decide whether or not liquor will be sold in Simpson County.

At Monday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting under the heading of “Economic Development,” Mayor Dale Berry broached the subject of allowing county voters to decided whether liquor should become legal in the county. 

Magee does not have the population to create the election, so the idea is to shift the vote to the county level and have the issue put on the ballot where there are enough votes to decide whether to legalize liquor sales. 

Berry told the board he was not concerned that Raleigh had just passed an alcohol initiative or that other small communities like Monticello have voted for alcohol to be sold, but he had learned that Collins was planning to pass alcohol sales and that would create issues for Magee. 

He said that Mendenhall’s Mayor Todd Booth said the City of Mendenhall was to address the issue at their meeting Monday night also.  This did not occur, however.  If it had, the plan was for the two cities to then go to the Board of Supervisors meeting and request that liquor sales be put on the ballot.  Aldermen discussed whether the issue would require a petition in order  to be placed on the ballot. 

The goal was to make the entire county “wet.”  Berry reported that currently only 12 counties are “dry” in regard to alcohol sales in the State of Mississippi.  The paper asked whether the board was going to vote on taking action. The board opted not to take a vote. 

In other news the mayor reported that he had not heard from Mississippi Offenders Re Entry program representatives since the last meeting in which the group presented plans for renting the former state work center from the city to use for housing for parolees who will be working nearby.  

Mayor Berry did refer to a poll conducted by the newspaper which drew approximately 200 votes with 51 percent against and 49 percent in favor of converting the now vacant work center into a half way house of sorts.

He stated that some of the respondents to the poll may have opposed the housing of parolees in the city for safety reasons.  He said, “The people that are scared of this need to stay off Fifth and Thirteenth Avenues because there are already similar type operations on these streets.”

Berry was referring to the homes that are operated by Overflow Church to offer housing options for those who may have recovery issues. 

Berry also requested that the media create additional surveys to determine whether the community would like to ban fireworks in the future. 

Board members expressed concern about the limited use of the splash pad at the sports complex.  They decided to waive the $5 entry fee to build interest in the splash pad.     

The board agreed to apply for a grant through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District of up to $150,000 to be used for building additional parking at the Magee Sportsplex.  The board agreed to the local match of up to 20 percent. 

The board was faced with finding a new judge to replace Judge Eugene Knight after his resignation.  Those who expressed interest were Ted Blakeney, Tracey Brown, Whit Fortenberry, Russ Sykes, Wesla Leech, Daniel Ware and Reggie Blackledge.  The board also had to select a public defender based on new laws which were going into effect on the first of July. 

The board agreed to hire Reggie Blackledge from Collins as the new city judge at the rate of $1,000 per month.  Court is normally held two Tuesdays a month in the morning until noon.  The board hired Whit Fortenberry as public defender at the rate of $500 per month. 

The board is in the process of adopting a golf cart ordinance and restrictions on where they may be operated within the city.  Initial discussion focused around operations only on non-state aid roads.  The aldermen are reviewing the roads in their district and will discuss their findings at the next board meeting.