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Booze debate goes public

JACKSON – As expected at their meeting here Monday morning, the Northampton County Commissioners set a public hearing date to take citizen comment on whether or not to allow the use of alcohol at the new Cultural and Wellness Center.

The hearing will be held on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Northampton County Commissioner’s room located at 100 West Jefferson Street.

However, during discussion, the commissioners addressed whether or not their meeting room was large enough to accommodate Thursday’s public hearing.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins said a courtroom was “on stand by” for the hearing. He also voiced concerns about the acoustics in the courtroom in relation to Board Clerk Kimberly Turner taking the minutes.

It was then decided since the public hearing had been publicized to take place at the commissioners’ meeting room, to keep the meeting place as is and, if needed, to move the meeting to the large courtroom on the second floor.

The motion passed without objection.

For the past two meetings the use of alcohol at private gatherings held in the center’s multi-purpose room has been cause for debate.

At their Jan. 7 meeting the commissioners first visited the topic after reading center’s proposed operational plan. Their discussion resulted in the plan being sent back to the Operations Plan Committee with suggested revisions.

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 Jenkins. Commission Chair Robert Carter and Commissioner James Hester were also appointed to the committee.

The debate about the topic continued at the commissioners’ Jan. 23 meeting. Jenkins presented two operational plans—one that allowed alcohol (with an alcohol policy attached) and one that did not.

Last week, the commissioners issued a statement inviting the participation and involvement of their citizens in the decision making process, hence the scheduling of Thursday’s public hearing.