Com­mit­tee Seeks Wet Sta­tus For En­tire City

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

PRAIRIE GROVE — A newly formed com­mit­tee called His­toric Prairie Grove Re­vi­tal­iza­tion is seek­ing to place a lo­cal op­tion ques­tion on the Novem­ber elec­tion bal­lot to al­low the sale of al­co­hol within all of Prairie Grove city lim­its, ac­cord­ing to Jerry Coyle, com­mit­tee chair­man.

Presently, an area of the city lim­its, one square mile mainly in the down­town sec­tion, is dry be­cause of a vote held some­time in the early 1950s, said Larry Oel­rich, the city’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic works and ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices. Cit­i­zens at that time voted they wanted Prairie Grove to be a dry com­mu­nity.

Any ar­eas that were an­nexed into the city af­ter the elec­tion came in as wet.

Larry Oel­rich, the city’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic works and ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices, said that is why Dol­lar Gen­eral is able to sell al­co­hol and why the for­mer Wal­mart Ex­press was able to sell al­co­hol. Those

sec­tions of town came in af­ter the wet/dry elec­tion in the 1950s.

His­toric Prairie Grove Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Com­mit­tee reg­is­tered with the Arkansas Ethics Com­mis­sion on March 9. The fil­ing shows other of­fi­cers and di­rec­tors are Rick Ault, vice chair­man, and mem­bers Mitch Bartholomew and Mike Fi­dler.

A brief state­ment about the pro­posed bal­lot ques­tion says, “to make Prairie Grove wet/dry ar­eas all wet. Right now the old sec­tions are dry and new ones are wet, to make Prairie Grove City Lim­its ar­eas con­sis­tent.”

Ba­si­cally, Coyle said, the com­mit­tee is propos­ing the ques­tion to clean up the lines in Prairie Grove so that the law is the same through­out the city lim­its.

Coyle said at­tor­ney John Everett of Prairie Grove is work­ing on pe­ti­tions for peo­ple to sign to place the ques­tion on the bal­lot. The plan is to put pe­ti­tions in many busi­nesses around town, not to hire an out­side firm to so­licit sig­na­tures on be­half of the com­mit­tee.

Becky Lewellen, Wash­ing­ton County clerk, last week said the group will be re­quired to have sig­na­tures from 38 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers, as of June 1 of this year, to meet the cri­te­ria for call­ing a lo­cal op­tion elec­tion on the ques­tion.

As of April 3, Prairie Grove city lim­its had 3,397 reg­is­tered vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to the county clerk’s of­fice, mean­ing that if that num­ber does not change be­fore June 1, pe­ti­tions must bear the sig­na­tures of at least 1,290 reg­is­tered vot­ers.

Signed pe­ti­tions would be turned into the county clerk’s of­fice to be ver­i­fied. Lewellen said her of­fice has 10 days to ver­ify sig­na­tures and if the pe­ti­tions do not have enough qual­i­fied sig­na­tures, the com­mit­tee would be given ad­di­tional time to gather more sig­na­tures.

Ault, who owns Prairie Grove Event Cen­ter on Buchanan Street, said he’s not look­ing at the is­sue from the viewpoint of a busi­ness owner but more for the eco­nomic vi­tal­ity of the down­town area.

“This would give down­town a fair com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage with the rest of the city as it ex­pands out­ward,” Ault said, adding he wants the city to be able to re­cruit new restau­rants to the down­town area and to be able to re­tain down­town busi­nesses.

Ault said he sup­ports the pro­posal but at the same time be­lieves it is im­por­tant to let the com­mu­nity make the de­ci­sion.

City At­tor­ney Steven Parker said the pro­posal is an ef­fort not to dis­crim­i­nate against any busi­nesses based on lo­ca­tion. The two Mex­i­can restau­rants along North Pittman Street are in the dry area and can­not sell al­co­hol, Parker said. How­ever, a restau­rant just out­side the bound­ary would be able to ap­ply for a per­mit from the state to sell al­co­hol.

“It could be con­sid­ered dis­crim­i­na­tion on where they are in the city,” Parker said, “So I think they are say­ing, ‘Let’s open it up to ev­ery­one.’”

“This would give down­town a fair com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage with the rest of the city as it ex­pands out­ward.”

Rick Ault

His­toric Prairie Grove Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Com­mit­tee

COURTESY PHOTO

This map shows the dry por­tion of Prairie Grove city lim­its, as far as al­co­hol sales are con­cerned. The rest of the city is wet. The sec­tion is about one square mile and in­cludes the down­town area. A new com­mit­tee will cir­cu­late pe­ti­tions for...

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