Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Dozens of area residents filled the Marshall County Courthouse last week for the first regular meeting of Marshall “1st” since news broke on the group’s effort to repeal prohibition. The group has been meeting since late last year in Calvert City and Benton, but only recently began circulating a petition for a special election.
Guests at the meeting represented both sides of the issue. Some spoke out in favor of by-the-drink sales or packaged liqour stores. Others recounted personal stories as reasons for opposing the sale of alcohol in the county.
But others were there just to gain information on what the group was doing and what it might mean to area residents.
Lois Rogalski, director for the Marshall County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP), was one of the guests there trying to learn more about the group’s goals. Rogalski works with preventing substance abuse in youth, including underage drinking. She said speaking with peers in other counties provided some unexpected insight.
“I did call some of my other ASAP agents because I was interested to see what they thought about it,” Rogalski said. “I was surprised to hear the problem did not get any bigger. In fact, the problem went down because more education is being enabled to be put out there. I was surprised with the phone calls that I made. I expected to get a lot more negative feedback than I did.”
Rogalski said she had not signed a petition, but was at last week’s meeting for informational purposes. She said whether or not the initiative was successful, she did not foresee her agency receiving additional funding for prevention programs.
While members of Marshall “1st” did not cite specific numbers, representatives often countered criticism by noting the decrease of traffic crashes in communities after similar prohibition repeals, particularly fatal collisions. They also noted the increased taxes collected can be designated for more law enforcement and additional equipment.
Some studies have cited twice as many alcohol-related fatalities in dry communities as opposed to wet ones.
The reason for this, according to members of Marshall “1st,” is that drinkers driving 20 or 30 miles aren’t going to have just one or two beers, they’re going to drink more. Likewise, for package sales, drinkers aren’t going to just buy enough to consume in one or two nights, they’re going to “stock up.”
“DUIs go down,” said Marshall “1st” spokeswoman Sissy Wommack. Wommack, along with other members of the group have been working in recent weeks to hand out petitions and provide information. The group’s web site recently went online at http://marshall1st.org.
Before the group can bring the issue to a ballot later this year, it must first acquire 2,100 signatures, one quarter of the voters in the last general election. Last week, the group seemed well on its way, handing out dozens of packets containing bundles of 25 or 50 petitions each.
Marshall “1st” will meet again Monday March 12 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held upstairs in the Marshall County Courthouse.