Wet/dry vote: It’s Thorsby’s turn now

Published 5:49 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

Thorsby residents will have the opportunity to declare Tuesday whether they want alcoholic beverages to be sold in their town.

The polling place at Thorsby City Hall will have two separate ballots — one for county, state and national elections; and another for the town’s wet/dry referendum. Only those who live in Thorsby town limits may participate in the wet/dry vote.

The question on the ballot will appear as follows: “Do you favor the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages within this municipality?” Voters will then mark either “Yes” or “No” on their ballot.

Thorsby Mayor Dearl Hilyer said that while many citizens are in favor of going wet, a large number may go unheard in Tuesday’s election.

“From everything I’ve seen, the people that signed that petition, a lot of those people live in Thorsby but are not registered voters,” Hilyer said.

He added that he didn’t think people had made a concerted effort to get registered to vote since the petition was circulated. For this reason, he predicts the town will likely stay dry.

“Being dry kind of leans into what Thorsby is all about. That’s just our culture,” Hilyer said.

Alcohol sales could generate about $30,000 per year in the town, Hilyer estimated, using ratios of other municipalities’ total budgets to alcohol revenue. The town would also lose $7,000 in annual funds from the Tennessee Valley Authority in lieu of taxes.

Thorsby council member Neil Benson predicted a close vote, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to as few as 10 votes. He also predicted high turnout.

“I feel like it’ll be a lot, but this week and next week are heavy vacation weeks. There will be a lot of people out of town,” he said.

Benson said residents have for the most part kept their opinions to themselves regarding the wet/dry issue.

“They’re not real vocal about it,” he said.

The vote comes just five months after Thorsby’s neighbor to the north, Jemison, went wet as the result of a special election held in January. Thorsby could have held a special election but opted to wait until the primaries.

Benson said he didn’t think the results of Jemison’s referendum would have much influence on Thorsby voters.

“We kind of stand out by ourselves,” he said. “It’s a family town.”

A state law allows dry towns with a population of 1,000 or more to draft a petition asking for a wet/dry referendum. Thorsby collected signatures from 183 registered citizens, more than the required 30 percent of participating voters in the previous municipal election.

If Thorsby goes wet, three out of four Chilton County municipalities will have legalized the sale of alcoholic beverages. The state law excludes Maplesville because the town does not meet the population requirement.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.