by Chris Harris
Pulaski County’s most prominent alcohol opponents don’t have any plans to launch a campaign against liquor retailing in Burnside — yet.
Though the vote is coming up in just a month-and-a-half for expanded alcohol sales in “the only town on Lake Cumberland,” as Burnside calls itself, the issue has so far avoided the sort of controversy that typically accompanies the “wet”/“dry” debate locally.
“It’s quiet right now,” said David Carr, local clergyman and owner of King of Kings Radio. Carr has been an outspoken opponent of alcohol sales over the years, and has been a central figure in campaigns to get citizens to vote for continued prohibition in areas that had been “dry” for decades.
Pulaski County Judge-Executive has set the date for a local option election in Burnside for Tuesday, October 15, which would allow citizens to decide whether or not they want allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in that town.
It’s a vote that became possible this past spring, when Burnside officially became a fourth-class city. Mayor Ron Jones announced at the April Burnside City Council meeting that the city’s change in classification had been approved by the state legislature. Previously, as a fifth-class city, Burnside was only able to offer alcohol sales by the drink in restaurants.
Carr is opposed to Burnside’s reclassification, he said, because “they don’t qualify” as a fourth-class city.
State guidelines have fourth-class cities with a population of between 3,000 to 8,000 residents. Fifth-class cities, as Burnside previously was, have between 1,000 and 3,000.
Though the town had a permanent population of a little over 600 at the time of the 2010 census, the numbers are deceiving according to Jones — and Burnside actually has a much more abundant town, depending upon the time of year.
“We worked awfully hard on getting it, gathering information to be presented to the legislature,” said Jones back in April. “Our population goes way up during the summer. About 20 percent (of the citizenship), I’d say we’re a second home to them.”
The state legislature is able to determine what classification a city should be given. If a city can make an adequate case for a change, as Burnside apparently did based on the tourism argument, Kentucky lawmakers may give that community a bump — a crucial step in economic opportunities such as expanded alcohol sales.
Carr has also stated opposition to Somerset’s annexation efforts now that the larger city has alcohol sales, as voted on in June of 2012, as that allows the spread of alcohol further throughout the county.
“The problem with the annexation in Somerset is what Burnside started with Lee’s Ford,” said Carr, referencing the decision to pursue corridor annexation along Lake Cumberland to reach Lee’s Ford Marina near Nancy and annex it in after Burnside went “moist” in 2004. “It seems like Burnside is never satisfied.”
Carr said that nothing specific was in the works right now regarding a campaign to fight the expanded sales in Burnside, but noted that he would probably “work with” Billy Miller on whatever efforts might be made. Miller is a clergyman at Jordan Baptist Church in Burnside.
Miller echoed Carr’s view of the situation when contacted Friday.
“Of course we stand in opposition to (expanded alcohol sales in Burnside), but we haven’t decided how to oppose it,” said Miller. “We just have to see what we want to do.”
It’s only been in the last decade that pro-alcohol votes in Pulaski County have seen any real success. The last countywide vote was in 1980, which supported staying “dry” overwhelmingly. The City of Somerset voted in 2001, an election in which Carr and Miller played a big part for the opposition. The measure was also shot down at that time.
More recently, however, the tide seems to have turned. Burnside voters approved alcohol sales by the drink in 2004; when the issue came back to the ballot in 2007, the margin in favor of liquor was even greater. Anti-alcohol forces did successfully campaign to keep Eagle’s Nest Country Club from allowing alcohol sales when Caney Fork precinct voters went to the polls in April of last year, but only two months later, Somerset voters chose to go full “wet” — leaving Burnside feeling like they needed to be able to stay competitive with the city that offered more in the way of beverage economics.
“Before Somerset went ‘wet,’ the tourists would stop in Burnside and get their gas and their ice and their cold drinks and sandwiches,” said Jones in August. “Now they stop in Somerset and get ice and drinks and sandwiches, and no longer have a reason to stop in Burnside. Now, at least we can level the playing field ...”
Ralph Troxtell, Pulaski County Clerk, still isn’t certain who started the petition calling for a vote on expanded sales in Burnside, only that it was turned in by Mark Vaught — who told the Commonwealth Journal last month that he didn’t know who it was that had asked him to give Troxtell the petition, just that it was dropped off at his office with a request for the delivery.
Out of 93 names on the petition, 85 were able to be successfully verified, with 81 being necessary to validate the document and set an election.