By Errol Castens / Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
PONTOTOC – The theme echoed by many who support the effort to legalize beer and light wine in Pontotoc County is that people already drink, so the county might as well benefit from the sales that local businesses could get and the taxes that would stop flowing to surrounding areas.
Larry Mathis, a disabled former construction worker who’s been circulating petitions toward getting the issue on a ballot, said legalization makes sense for several reasons.
“I do drink, and every time I drink a beer, I’ve got to go to Tupelo to get it,” he said. “I’d like to buy it locally. Why let Lee County have all the tax money from it?”
Jimmy Lee Hicks of Belden said beer legalization will bring economic benefits.
“Otherwise, New Albany and Tupelo will have all the business, and we’ll be sitting here with nothing,” he said. “There’s already people who drink in Pontotoc County; they just go elsewhere to buy it now. People who want to drink are going to drink, and the people who don’t aren’t going to start. I don’t think people are going to be going crazy just because you make it legal.”
Wayne Wages, who lives on Pontotoc County’s eastern edge, agrees. A furniture maker who used to serve as a reserve deputy sheriff, he says the beer containers mixed with the fast food wrappers on rural roads show that people already drink.
“I live near the county line and see all kinds of people come out of Pontotoc County and go into Lee County to buy beer and come right back in,” he said. “They take that tax money over there and spend it instead of us having the tax revenue over here. I don’t understand why we would not want to benefit from that tax revenue over here – especially with Toyota coming. ”
Mary Dobbins of Randolph said restaurants especially would benefit.
“Instead of going out of town on Friday or Saturday, people might eat here in town,” she said.
Margaret Bolton, a clerk at Randolph Store, said she doesn’t drink but added that those who are afraid legalization will increase crime are probably overreacting.
“Some people think it’s going to turn into Sodom and Gomorrah, but I don’t think it’ll be that bad,” she said. “They go to Tupelo and New Albany to shop and stuff, and they’re not afraid to go there.”
Mathis said petitions have been out at several locations throughout the county for about two months, and he figures close to 2,000 people have signed them. About 3,400 will be required to be certified before supervisors are required to call such an election. Mathis isn’t predicting how such an election will go, but he’s confident it will be held.
“I think we’ll bring it to a vote,” he said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or email@example.com.