Alcohol vote possible in Sawmills

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 09:15 AM

Sawmills voters may see an alcohol-sales referendum on their ballots this November, Town Administrator Seth Eckard and members of the town council said at a “coffee with the council” event on Tuesday.

When informally polled, the nine Sawmills citizens in attendance all said they’d like to see the referendum take place. They did not indicate how they would vote. Some expressed a moral discomfort with alcohol sales but said voters should get the chance to choose.

“Money-wise, yes,” resident Reid Lingerfelt said. “Morally, no.”

A “yes” vote on alcohol sales would mean a revenue increase in the neighborhood of $20,000 per year, Eckard said. It would also open the possibility of new restaurants choosing to open within the town, council member Trena Kirby added — although the most immediate effects would likely be sales of alcoholic drinks at gas stations and the CVS on Mission Road.

For a referendum to show up on November ballots, the town council will have to vote in favor of one at a future meeting.

Town residents also sounded off on a variety of other issues at Tuesday’s meeting, which was an attempt to take the temperature of the town on various issues before the 2014-15 budget season begins in earnest.

The town does not anticipate raising the tax rate in 2014-15, Eckard said, but probably will raise water and sewer rates. The town absorbed the price increase passed down from the City of Lenoir in 2013-14.

The possibility of new restrooms at Veterans Park, which riled some people last year, also seemed divisive Thursday. An informal poll of the 13 people attending at the time of the question, showed that six people supported building the bathrooms, and five did not. Most of those who spoke during the meeting were in favor of the restrooms — Lingerfelt said they would be “a gift back to the town from the town council.”

Clay Wilson, one of the residents who said he didn’t support the restrooms, said after the meeting that he’d rather see the town keep its money in the general fund, while community organizations like the Optimist Club chipped in to raise funds for the bathroom.

Town residents also discussed the possibility of a new “Welcome to Sawmills” sign at the intersection of U.S. 321 and Mission Road, near CVS and Sears. Six residents were in favor of the proposed sign, which would cost about $3,000, and four were opposed.

Town leaders also brought up an idea discussed at a strategic planning session earlier this month: a town-sponsored fireworks show during the summer. Turner suggested making that event a community picnic for Memorial Day — an idea 11 town residents supported, with none opposed.

The town will hold its budget retreat Tuesday, Feb. 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the offices of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, adjacent to the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center on U.S. 321.