The Faulkner County Quorum Court has expressed its opinion that Faulkner County stay "dry" — or "damp," as Justice of the Peace Randy Higgins put it. The quorum court met in a special meeting Thursday night to consider the resolution.
The resolution is one of the briefest on record. The substantive language is, "this body is opposed to Faulkner County being a "wet" county."
JP Steve Goode asked for the special meeting to express the quorum court’s resolve last week, and presented figures and statistics that he said show that liquor stores and beer sales will end up costing the county money, maybe enough to require a tax increase.
Goode’s numbers take the current yearly DUI rate per 10,000 residents in "wet" Washington County (Fayetteville), which he said is comparable to Faulkner County because Fayetteville too is a "city of colleges." Washington County has 105 DUI incidents per 10,000 while Faulkner County has 38. Goode said that he would expect going "wet" to bring about a similar increase in drunk-driving arrests, and with a night in jail costing taxpayers about $68, Goode said, a comparable number of DUI arrests would cost the county about $54,000 per year.
Added to this, Goode told the quorum court, he would expect that at least two new deputies would have to be hired, each at about $44,000 per year with benefits and insurance, and another $48,000 for two more patrol cars and $10,000 per year in fuel. With three new deputies, Goode said, the total new cost to the county would be $165,000.
$20 million per year in alcohol sales was, Goode said, a number that both pro- and anti-"wet" sides agree on, which would raise $100,000 in taxes that would be split between roads and criminal justice.
Based on this, Goode said, a "wet" vote would cost the county money.
JP Linda Paxton pointed out that the ordinance was "not in any way going to stop the petition drive."
Goode said he hoped that voters who see the drive to Morrilton or Maumelle as "an inconvenience" might not be inclined to sign "if they were aware it would be a financial drain that might result in increased taxes."
JP Damon Edwards said that it was "incumbent on us as leaders to take a position," and voted for the ordinance. "But if it gets enough signatures it’s up to the people and that’s how it should be."
The ordinance passed with no votes against it. JPs John Pickett and Frank Shaw were absent. County Judge Allen Dodson publicly apologized to these JPs, saying that he should have called them to make sure they didn’t have any prior engagements before setting the special meeting for Thursday night.
Dodson also urged the court to consider ways of controlling liquor stores and beer sales if the push for a "wet" county succeeds.
"We need to think through what we have the authority to enact and what it makes sense to enact … that may be a further restriction on the already existing state statutes," Dodson said, also saying that exercising the county’s zoning authority would be one "obvious" way to control the development of a "wet" county.