BLADENBORO — A request to place a referendum for the sale of off-premises beer and wine in Bladenboro on the Nov. 6 ballot was met with a wall of Christian opposition on Monday, and the Bladenboro Town Board unanimously nixed the request.
Several church pastors came to the podium to speak out against the referendum during the open forum portion of the meeting, at least a couple giving impassioned pleas not to allow the sale of alcohol in town. Two of those who spoke admitted to having been alcoholics earlier in life or having someone in their family battle the disease.
“My father, grandfather and uncle were all alcoholics — and I almost was.” said Pastor Robert Smith of New Life Church. “I’ve never seen anything good come from alcohol.”
Other speakers against the request went straight to the Bible to support their opposition.
“I think our Lord would like us to not put this up for a vote,” said the Rev. Larry Hayes, pastor at Good New Baptist Church. “Not having alcohol is not an economic barrier. We’ve had this come up before and we don’t need it. It would put an undue burden on our police department and residents.”
Other points made against the referendum included the dismissing of a rumor that Food Lion would be coming if the referendum passed; the additional litter throughout town that would be created; families barely able to make ends meet using needed money on alcohol; and how the economic benefits in other areas like White Lake and Clarkton are far more minimal than expected.
“Look at Chabourn,” one speaker said. “What’s it done for Chabourn? Nothing.”
The lone voice in favor of putting the referendum on the November ballot was resident Rodney Storms.
“It’s common sense,” he told the board. “This would bring revenue to the town (and) we need all the help we can get.
“Why have people spending their money in other towns?” he continued. “This should be up to the residents to decide.”
Commissioner Sarah Benson emphasized that the request was only to put the referendum on the November ballot.
“We’re not here to decided for or against the sale of beer and wine in Bladenboro,” she said.
When the issue came to the floor as an action item, there was no discussion after Commissioner Gene Norton made the motion not to place the referendum on the ballot and Commissioner Patsi Callahan seconded it. The board unanimously passed the motion.
The referendum could still end up on the Nov. 6 ballot if a petition carrying the valid signature of at least 35 percent of registered Bladenboro voters is delivered to the Board of Elections.
In other business Monday, the board:
— Approved a $1,742,407 budget for fiscal year 2018-19. Property taxes will remain unchanged, but some fees will see an increase.
— Approved a sewer easement for a property on West Bladen Street to allow for a tap-in to a town sewer line. The property owner will pay all fees.
— Accepted a $250,000 CDBG-I grant that will help pay for the installation of backup generators at the town maintenance shop, two wells and two lift stations.
— Approved a schedule for personnel evaluations for town employees.
— Approved an Economic Development Five-Year Plan for the town.
— Passed a resolution of approval for a water shortage response plan, as requested by the state.
The next town board meeting will be Monday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.