Bailey County official favors alcohol sales

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

A Bailey County Commissioner said he thinks it is time for the county to rethink its status as a dry county.

Juan Chavez said he is circulating a petition to allow the sale of packaged liquor, beer and wine in hopes of getting the proposal on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. He said the county is losing revenue to other counties where alcohol sales are permitted.

Chavez said surrounding counties such as Hale, Lamb and Cochran recently have voted in alcohol sales.
“It would keep all revenues in this county,” he said. “Most of the people go to Dimmitt or Littlefield or Clovis (to buy alcohol).”

To get the proposal on the ballot, Bailey County Clerk Paula Benton said a little more than 800 signatures are needed, which is 35 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election.

Benton said Chavez has until September to collect the signatures. She said Bailey County has been a dry county since 1948 when it ceded from Castro County.

Two community leaders believe allowing alcohol sales in the county would increase alcoholism and influence underage drinking.

Stacy Conner, pastor of First Baptist Church and president of the Bailey County Ministerial Alliance, said the revenue from alcohol sales will not make up for the social impact of bringing alcohol into the county.

“I think it’s ruse to offer a economical argument for the sale of alcohol because of the cost you incur on the back end in the loss of stability in homes, alcoholism and the cost that that brings to society,” he said. “I think any economic gain you have through sales tax revenue you lose through social care.”

Conner said his church nor the alliance has no formal stance on the petition as it has not been discussed by members.
Muleshoe Independent School District Superintendent Gene Sheets also hopes the petition doesn’t make it to the general election ballots.

“It’s my hope that we would keep it where it’s not as available (to children),” he said. “As superintendent of schools, I think that’s a high priority.”

Chavez circulated a petition in 1993 to allow alcohol in his commission district only. That petition made it to the general election, but he said it was voted down by about 40 votes.

“I had always been thinking about trying it again, and when I started hearing all these counties surrounding us go for it, and passing it (I decided to start it again),” Chavez said.