Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Protest petition forces alcohol election

November 23, 2005

Mark your busy holiday calendars with another important date. Baldwin City residents will be going to the polling places Dec. 22.

A protest petition filed by opponents to the city's ordinance allowing Sunday sales of alcohol was determined to be valid Thursday by the Douglas County Clerk's office. By statue, an election must be held within 45 days of a protest petition being filed.

Baldwin City Council members were asked to pick a day for the special election at Monday's meeting. The election had to be before Jan. 1. There's also the need for legal publication of the election in the Signal, so the window the council had was between Dec. 22 and Dec. 30.

"I think we want to do it before Christmas, not after," said Council President Amy Cleavinger.

The council discussed several different dates, but eventually decided on Dec. 22, which is a Thursday.

"I think sooner is better," said Council Member Nancy Brown.

The date was approved unanimously, setting the stage for a rare December election. Only Baldwin residents will be allowed to vote and the usual polling places will be open.

At issue is an ordinance passed 3-2 by the council in September that allows alcohol to be sold on Sundays. Currently, that's not the case in Baldwin, where residents routinely drive to Lawrence or Edgerton to purchase packaged liquor or beer. Baldwin residents can drink alcohol on Sundays at several bars in the city. But, liquor stores can't be open and convenience stores can't sell cereal malt beverages or other alcohol.

The city ordinance changed that, but a protest period of 60 days was met. City Clerk Peggy Nichols said the county clerk confirmed 85 names on the petition, which was all that was needed to force the election. The petition had around 150 signers.

Nichols wasn't sure how the question will be put to voters. She'll be in contact with the county clerk regarding ballots. Absentee ballots will also be available and voting can be done on the question as early as Dec. 1 -- at the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence.

The alcohol question was hotly debated at two council meetings in September. Proponents, mostly local businessmen, cited the lost business that was going to surrounding communities as a result of a "dry" Baldwin on Sunday. They also cited the need for the choice to be able to sell if they wanted to. The ordinance only allowed for the Sunday sales.

Opponents mostly cited religious reasons and that there was no need for such sales in Baldwin on Sunday. They felt it was a quality of life issue.

Council members Ted Brecheisen Jr, Tony Brown and Cleavinger voted in favor of the ordinance. Council members Doyle Jardon and N. Brown voted against it.

Now, the voters will decide. Mayor Gary Walbridge only had one question to ask at Monday's meeting, even before possible dates for the election were discussed.

"Who bears the cost?" Walbridge said.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said the city would have to pay the tab of $2,000.

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