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Sunday wine sales officially passes

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Pastors, others turn out in opposition

By Jesse Osbourne

After hearing from opposition of Sunday wine sales at wineries, the Washington County fiscal court voted 4-2 to allow such sales.
Morris Sweazy and Terry Tingle voted against the ordinance, while Hal B. Goode, Billy Riney, Greg Simms and Benjamin Settles voted in favor. Those votes were cast the same as for the first reading of the ordinance last month.
The ordinance directly effects Horseshoe Bend Vineyards and Winery, which sought the ability to sell wine on location on Sundays.
As county attorney Hamilton Simms pointed out at the last regular scheduled fiscal court meeting, the ordinance will only effect wine sold at wineries.
John Coyle, who opposed the Sunday sale of wine, spoke to the fiscal court and judge-executive John Settles.
“A lot of people in Washington County feel like Sunday is just kind of set aside as a special day, a day that should be honored, and I think a lot of people feel that way,” he said. “I don’t think I’m the only one. I hope I am not the only one.”
Coyle pointed out to the court that the ordinance used the word ‘encourage’ on two different occasions.
“I think that’s a horrible word,” he said. “I can not imagine an ordinance passing here in Washington County that says, ‘We are encouraging.’”
He added, “That’s what you all have signed to and voted on. Four of you voted that you all are encouraging wine operation...I guess that’s what I’m asking. Are you encouraging these operations?”
Coyle added that he thinks the city becoming a fourth-class city has a lot to do with the current ordinance.
“When we got to be a fourth class city, it opened up a lot of issues,” he said. “A lot of ordinances can be passed, and we really need to be aware, and I’m not aware, I’m not saying that I am, but we really  need to be aware of where the fiscal court and the city councils, what they can do when we’re a fourth class city. You all have a lot of things that you can pass and do, that people never vote on. You all just say, ‘We’re going to do it.’”
Coyle also added that he didn’t think magistrates around the county know what is best for Willisburg, where the winery is in operation.
“(Magistrate)Hal (Goode) is out in the East Texas community and he’s trying to tell people in Willisburg that it’s OK for them to have Sunday sales,” Coyle said. “(Magistrate) Morris (Sweazy) lives here right outside of Springfield. Morris is going to have to say, ‘It’s OK, or I don’t feel like it’s all right to have Sunday sales.’ (Magistrate) Greg (Simms) is not involved with anything out there other than the fact that he’s a magistrate for part of Washington County.”
Coyle said that allowing Sunday sales at the winery would be the first step in Sunday sales county wide.
“When we have Sunday sales of wine out in Willisburg, how long will it be before we have Sunday sales all over the county?” he said. “We know that’s where it’s going. A step-by-step process and you all are the first step in starting a whole line of things that are going to happen.”
Coyle said any time the sale of alcohol is discussed, commerce is always brought up.
He encouraged the court to look at numbers related to alcohol incidents in Kentucky.
He said there were over 5,000 alcohol-related accidents in the state in 2009, with over 2,600 injured in those accidents. He said there were 203 alcohol-related deaths, and 32,800 arrested for DUI.
“There’s no one that’s going to go to the winery out there and think when they’re going out there that they would be tested as DUI, but they’ll be some that leave there that will test that way,” Coyle said.
Coyle also cited statistics he said were from 2007.
“The economic cost of alcohol-related car crashes was $326 million in the state of Kentucky alone,” he said. “Then you have the cost of underage drinking was $752 million dollars. That’s a billion dollars a year that’s sucked right up out of our economy, and we’re saying here that it’s going to make the economy better. Somebody pays that billion dollars for those two things there.”
Coyle added that the people he talked to about the issue said they didn’t think it would do much good to contact a magistrate to express concern.
“The discouraging thing was that most of them said, ‘Nah. I’m not going to do it. I don’t think it would do any good. I think their mind is made up. They’ve already voted and gotten backed into a corner and they’re going to vote the way they voted before. They’re going to support it. And they’re not going to change their minds.’ So they don’t believe it makes a difference to let you all know how they feel about things,” Coyle said.
Ann Karsner, co-owner of Horseshoe Bend Vineyards and Winery, also spoke before the court.
“I would like to thank the court for the consideration of this audience, and just assure the court that we are very mindful of our responsibility and our desire to become a tourist destination,” she said. “We will do everything we can to honor their trust that is placed in us as we are doing currently during the week.”
Magistrate Benjamin Settles, who serves the Willisburg area, also spoke and made the motion to approve the ordinance.
“My heart was telling me this morning that I’m doing what is right,” he said. “I’m the one out there on that end of the county, and I’m the one that’s going to take most of the heat.”
Magistrate Billy Riney seconded the motion.
As part of discussion of the ordinance, Magistrate Greg Simms spoke to Coyle.
“I asked you to have people call me and talk to me about this,” Simms said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had three calls and they’ve all been for it. I’ve talked to 25 or 30 people. Some of them from Willisburg, some of them mostly from my area. I’m just not getting any opposition to it. I’ll be very honest. I respect your all’s opinion, but I kind of have to do what my people in my district tell me.”
John Settles responded to some of what Coyle said earlier.
“It’s really a sad statement of our political environment if people feel like that they can’t call,” he said. “The way that this was brought to exposure was done through the proper legal channels. The first reading, and just because there was a first reading and a vote, doesn’t mean that anything was set in stone. I think you understand that, but you relayed to us that a lot of people thought it was a done deal anyway.”
Goode asked Karsner if she would reach out to people with questions about her business, as she had in the past.
Karsner said she would be happy to do it.
Simms asked if the word ‘encourage’ should be struck from the ordinance.
Hamilton Simms said it would be no problem.
“It really has nothing to do with the ordinance itself,” he said. “If you want to delete any of those, it certainly can be deleted.”
The court voted to modify the ordinance to strike out the word ‘encourage.’ They then voted 4-2 to pass the ordinance.

In other news
• Bids were accepted to mow and help maintain the following properties: the covered bridge, the Burg park and the judicial center. Seven bids were presented for the covered bridge. The committee chose to accept the lowest bid from James Hayden at $100 a month through the rest of the year. Ten bids were presented for the Burg park. James Hayden was awarded the bid at $85 per mowing. Four bids were presented for the judicial center. Rick Allen was awarded the bid at $3,200 per year.
• The court voted to allow the county road department to reseed grass at the Burg park.