By P.J. Tracy
Petitions to get a referendum on making Pike County wet have begun to circulate in Murfreesboro.
A group calling themselves the Pike County Improvement Committee is behind the action with the goal of obtaining a ballot spot in the general election this November.
With more than 5,000 registered voters in Pike County, the movement will have to get qualified petitions from 38% of that number — around the 2,000 mark. Signees must be registered voters of the county aged at least 18, and the petitions will be certified by the Pike County Clerk.
Should the group get enough support in the form of signatures, the Pike County Quorum Court would pass an ordinance and place the motion on the ballot.
It was stated that the group will seek volunteers from the Delight, Kirby and Glenwood areas to distribute and collect petitions.
The petitions are one-page documents, so the only signee will be privy to the fact that they supported the measure to be placed on the ballot. In addition, over 200 petitions have already been collected.
“This is not just for Murfreesboro, it will benefit the entire county,” said group spokeswoman Jean Floyd. “The cities can then pass their own taxes, it’s all about revenue. We will have to get with the other towns because it has to be a countywide effort.”
Floyd wished to remind voters that tourism is a 7.3 billion dollar industry in Arkansas, and especially critical to Pike County, and that there was no point in losing revenue that can stay here to other counties.
“Taxes would go to the municipalities and county general revenue funds, allowing for schools, roads and other general projects to benefit directly,” said Floyd.
And while Floyd has said some people have verbally refused to sign a petition, she still feels that it is a worthwhile exercise.
“This is a positive thing and a real opportunity for us … the revenue will only benefit the county and it’s cities. I think the time is now — since 2014 every county in the state that has gotten this one the ballot has passed it. It’s a different time and day.”
It was decided by the group to chase the “wet” standard, which allows hard alcohol sales, as opposed to ”damp,” which just allows for the sale of beers and wines, simply for to the ability to allow people a better and higher quality selection.
The number of liquor stores allowed, under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Beverage Control (ABC), would be based on population according to Floyd, only allowing one or two for the entire county. Other entities would be allowed to sell beer and wine at their establishments, such as convenience and grocery stores, as well as bed and breakfasts and restaurants.
Petitions are currently available at Murfreesboro Hardware, The Gallery, Dino Dig, Caddo Antiques and Floyd’s Trunk of Treasures. Floyd said she has petitions, should they be requested.
An attorney with experience in the effort did some pro-bono work in creating the petition.
Arkansas law states that knowingly printing a name or address falsely on a petition is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a confinement of up to one year in jail.
Additionally, a person knowingly signing someone else’s name, signing more than one petition, or signing a petition they are not legally entitled to sign constitute petition fraud, a class D felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to six years.