Village takes no action on ABC issue

Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 13, 2019

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Village of Clemmons ultimately decided against taking any action regarding a resolution in support of the current N.C. ABC Control System in Monday night’s meeting.

Councilman Mike Combest had argued that Clemmons should oppose government monopolies, but it was also pointed out that proposed bills in the legislature looking to privatize liquor sales, if passed, could result in a decline in revenue for the Village.

After a discussion, Mayor John Wait said, “If there is support for the resolution, now would be the time for a motion for it. If not, I think whatever happens in the General Assembly happens.”

Attorney David Kasper advised that Wait could “open it to a motion, and if you hear no motion, you can move to the next item on the agenda.”

And that’s what happened, so actually there was no motion and no action.

The resolution was presented in the previous meeting by Gregory Bradsher, Triad Municipal ABC Board administrator, but the Clemmons Village Council opted then to push the item to the June 10 meeting to allow more time to review all the information presented.

During that meeting, Bradsher said that the ABC system is a non-profit organization geared to make a profit for their member agencies in the Triad, including Clemmons, which voted in 1990 to sell alcohol. Since that time, he said that the Village has received $6.2 million in unrestricted revenue. This is a local quarterly distribution (from sales only as there are no state or local taxes involved in the sale of alcohol).

Bradsher said that the bill being considered in the General Assembly would have the funds filtering through the state down to the municipalities rather than a direct distribution.

Wait said that “Ms. (Ann) Stroud (Clemmons finance officer) told us in the last meeting that if the way the bill structured now in the General Assembly is passed, we would see a significant decline in revenue for the Village. It seems like over time the Legislature has consistently found ways to give municipalities less money to do the work that we need to do.”

Wait said that a couple of resolutions could be crafted for consideration, if the Council felt the same way.

Combest said that Clemmons should not support the pending Resolution 2019-R-4 that had been offered and instead should submit a resolution supporting three things:

• The state of N.C. should devise and implement an alcohol purchase, distribution and sales system that maximizes free market dynamics consistently while minimizing the adverse impact of alcohol consumption.

• The system must preserve the amount of revenue currently distributed to county and local governments, adding that other states do this very effectively.

• Asking all Forsyth County municipalities to join in this effort.

Councilman Chris Wrights said that the resolution under consideration was brought to the Council by the ABC Board and not brought up by any Council member.

“Obviously, what’s going through the General Assembly is something we can’t support either,” he said. “It’s detrimental to Clemmons. Bills are not moving through for us to try and go gung-ho and start a big thing at the last minute thinking that’s going to work statewide. I don’t think that’s going to happen either. I don’t see the point of making our staff spend time working up a new resolution. I don’t think we should take any stand at this point.”

However, Combest disagreed, stating this was an opportunity to take a stand against government monopolies.

“Our government should be hiring teachers and building roads and policing,” said Combest, adding that “at a minimum we ought to reject (Resolution) 2019-R-4 in support of the ABC system. We’ve got no business hiring clerks and managers to run liquor stores.”

Councilwoman P.J. Lofland, agreed, saying “If we can keep the government out of one more thing, that would be great.”

House Bill 971 was introduced in April in an effort to “modernize” the state’s longstanding system for the distribution and sale of distilled spirits with proponents calling the rules outdated — having been on the books since the Prohibition era with few changes in the past 80-plus years.

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the Council:

• Heard from Forsyth County Fire Marshal Gary Styers regarding updates to ordinances to the state fire code where Clemmons could either manage the changes going forward or just allow the county to maintain it. It was agreed that the two options will be presented in drafts to be considered at the next Council meeting.

• Heard from Village Manager Scott Buffkin that work continues on the search for the recruitment of a new planner and “we hope to make an announcement very soon.”

• Filled several vacancies and reappointments on Village boards. For Planning Board, Thomas Mekis, Carolyn Miller, David Orrell and Bobby Patterson were appointed. For the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Robert Perkins was appointed with Matthew Moger being named an alternate. For the Stormwater Advisory Board, Laurie Fitzgerald and Jason McMahan were appointed.

• Adopted the fiscal year 2019-20 General Fund Budget for $7,891,150 and Stormwater Enterprise Budget for $2,320,305 after a public hearing where no one spoke. The property tax remains level at $0.115 per $100 valuation. The Stormwater Utility Fee is reflected at $5 per month per equivalent residential unit.