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Commissioners to weigh public opinion on alcohol issue

JACKSON – The power of the people will have a hand in establishing Northampton County policy.

Public opinion is being heard from throughout Northampton County regarding a pending decision by the board of commissioners to allow alcoholic beverages at the yet to be opened Northampton Cultural and Wellness Center. The commissioners are studying two operational plans for that facility. One would allow the use of alcohol within the Center’s multi-purpose room for functions such as wedding receptions/wedding anniversaries, Chamber of Commerce events, Economic Development functions, class reunions and national chapters of fraternities and sororities.

The public outcry over the issue prompted a joint response from Northampton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert Carter and Vice-Chair Fannie Greene.

“Due to the sensitivity of the issue at hand regarding allowing or not allowing alcohol to be served during private events at the Cultural and Wellness Center and that this is a decision whereby the board of commissioners invites citizen participation and involvement in the decision making process, the board, during its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, will officially schedule a public hearing which is tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 to be held in the Northampton County Commissioners Room (100 West Jefferson Street, Jackson),” the press release read.

In a further statement, Chairman Carter said, “We want to hear from our citizens. We have struggled with this issue in that the board wishes to make this facility as convenient for use as possible and to allow the desired maximum use and benefit to all citizens of Northampton County. As one of my fellow commissioners commented at our last meeting, this is about choice and I believe that good government should allow its citizens to make choices with issues such as this.”

At their Jan. 7 meeting, the commissioners debated whether or not to allow the use of alcohol at the facility during private events.

The debate resulted in the plan being sent back to the Operations Plan Committee with the commissioners suggested changes. The committee consists of Finance Officer Dot Vick, Health Director Sue Gay, Office on Aging Director Debra Warren, Recreation Office Director James Roberts, Sheriff Wardie Vincent and County Manager Jenkins. Carter and fellow Commissioner James Hester were also appointed to the committee.

At the commissioner’s Jan. 23 meeting, Jenkins presented two possible operational plans to the commissioners from the committee. Both plans included the commissioners’ previously suggested changes, the only difference was one plan allows alcohol while the other prohibits it.

In a recent online poll conducted by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, six in 10 (205 voted no; 133 said yes) responders said that the commissioners should not allow those renting the publicly owned facility to serve alcoholic beverages at private functions.