ABC Board receives favorable audit

Published 6:21 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

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WINDSOR – There’s good news for Bertie County regarding its Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board; and maybe it’s about to get better with the possibility of a second store in the county.

Board members appeared before the Bertie County Commissioners at their January meeting here on Monday and chairman Michael Freeman brought favorable news regarding the 2019 ABC audit.

“Overall, it was a very good year for the ABC Board,” Freeman said.

Sales of spirits in the county grossed $861,000 as of June 30, which was a $60,000 increase over 2018. However, the amount of excise tax – or, “sin tax” charged on alcohol sales – totaled $189,000, with an additional $3,665 in other taxes which left the county with a net profit of close to $668,000, or $15,000 more than a year ago.

When operating expenses, which fell in 2019, were deducted it totaled over $28,000. Minus distribution for Law Enforcement and Alcohol Rehabilitation and Education, which stays local, Bertie County will receive $24,000, or 95 percent; and the town of Windsor, where the ABC store is located, will get over $1,200, or the remaining five percent. Last year, the county and town combined only received a total of $306.

“As you can see, this is a huge increase over last year,” noted Freeman.

Commissioners’ chairman Ron Wesson commended Freeman and the ABC Board for their outstanding fiscal management.

Another small benefit the ABC Board was able to pass along was with the Alcohol Education Program; specifically, the annual Drunk Driving campaign held at Bertie High School. The campaign returned to the school last May prior to Prom Night after a one-year hiatus, sponsored by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the local ABC Board.

“Normally, it costs us (over) $3,000,” Freeman acknowledged. “Last year it only cost us lunch for eight people.”

Freeman was accompanied by the other members of the county ABC Board: Store General Manager Clint Freeman, along with James Pugh, and Miles Davis. He noted that Davis is now the State President of the North Carolina Association of County ABC Boards, and has received acclaim for making Bertie County a leader in alcohol education, as well the retention of ABC stores versus other forms of retailing or wholesaling of alcohol.

“I’m proud of what we do here in Bertie County, particularly with regard to alcohol education, because that was the crux of my campaign: to have an education program for all the ABC systems,” Davis stated. “It’s now catching on statewide. We’re now working with the Association and the (state ABC) Commission together, which is something that has never been done before, and this will consist of educating the young people. We’re in a control system and we want to keep it a control system for health reasons and to keep our young people from having too easy access to alcohol.”

Davis also thanked the Commissioners for appointing what he termed ‘competent’ people to the ABC Board, because he thinks that it makes a difference.

Freeman said the alcohol education program Bertie County has instituted has done so well, other counties are calling from across the state wanting to duplicate it.

“And to think, it’s only cost us lunch,” he joked.

Commissioner John Trent noted that there are quite a few ‘firsts’ in Bertie County that are being copied across the state.

“You’d be surprised how often we hear that. It’s almost all the time,” Trent said. “People are trying to copy our beachfront property, our EMS system, some of everything we try to do.”

Commissioner Tammy Lee echoed the ABC Board is saying that the Alcohol Education is well received by the students at Bertie High School.

“If it saves just one life, then it’s so worth having, so thank you for the education part,” Lee said.

Later that evening, the Commissioners voted to allow the ABC Board to keep half the 95 percent net profit for 2019 earmarked to return to the county for use with ‘future economic development’.

Windsor will still receive its full five percent.

“How these funds we voted to let them keep may be used is something we will explore further down the line,” said Wesson. “We’re looking for an opportunity, and we asked them to explore ideas, come back to us, and present a plan.”

For the past two-and-a-half years, the Commissioners have inquired if the ABC Board had determined any need for a second ABC Store in the county. Board members had stated in 2017 that they are always gauging interest for a new location, but also discussed the various costs involved have to be considered since the ABC Store is not a government funded agency with government employees.

Several locations across the county were being considered for possible expansion, and one such was in the Lewiston-Woodville area.