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Voters will take on dry status

On Tuesday Pearl River County registered voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinion whether liquor can be sold in the city limits of Picayune and Poplarville and supporters of the two sides have taken a stance on the issue.

The county is near many areas that have all kinds of alcohol available and people of the county have the opportunity to bring the illegal substance back in to the county.

“We live in such close proximity with so many areas that are wet,” said county resident Lonnie Stogner.

The close proximity of those places to acquire liquor provides ample opportunity to buy and bring liquor into the currently dry county. If this vote changes that those people will not have to travel that distance.

Stogner said that Pearl River County could be getting the benefits of those sales instead of areas such as Slidell, Hancock County and Bogalusa. Currently beer and light wine are available in the Picayune City limits, however most arguments against the legalization of liquor state that if liquor is available in the county drunk driving and other problems associated with alcohol will increase.

“That’s all an issue of self control,” Stogner said. “Not for somebody else to tell you.”

The Rev. Allan Hickman of Resurrection Life Worship Center said there have been sample dry counties that also had surrounding wet counties and when the dry county became wet the bad statistics went up.

However according to a news article posted at http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/166104/ drinking and driving deaths are actually lower in wet counties. Between the years 2000 to 2004 a study by The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette based on federal statistics found that for a every 10,000 people 4.2 deaths involved inebriated drivers in the wet counties in Arkansas. In the same respect dry counties in that state ranked in 4.6 deaths for every 10,000 people and counties that sold absolutely no alcohol had a death rate of 4.9 for the same population rate.

Whether alcohol is legal does seem to have an impact on the amount of drunk driving deaths, it appears to lower the risk. According to the article Wisconsin has the highest percentage, 62 percent, of drinkers in the nation but the lowest rate of deaths associated with drunk driving, 0.7 residents for every 10,000 people. In comparison Mississippi had a much lower percentage, 37 percent, of drinkers yet a higher drunk driving death rate, 1.2 people for every 10,000, the article states.

Another issue concerns restaurants, and the fact that many will not build ina dryy county. But those opposed to the referendum say that it will cause more accidents and family problems in the county.

“Restaurants are not worth that,” Hickman said. “The negatives far outweigh the positives.”

The family oriented atmosphere of Pearl River County is the reason more people are moving here and Hickman said he believes that if the county turns wet all that will change.

“We have a great community here, that’s why people are moving here,” Hickman said.

Stogner does not think that remaining dry will stop or lessen DUI’s and other problems that people associate with alcohol use that are already occurring in the county

“People who want to drink will drink, the only thing a dry county does is label drinkers as criminals,” Stogner said.

Stogner said he believes those taking a dry stance are following what others have told them. The increased economy and industry associated with a wet county are not being considered, he said.

“That’s living life based on fear, that’s something nobody should do,” Stogner said. “Living life based on fear doesn’t accomplish anything. What if people lived life based on fear and never wanted to give electricity a shot?”

Negative effects are to be expected when change comes along, but Stogner said education is the key to alleviating those problems. To battle the negative effects of the abuse of alcohol there should be increased education of responsibility, Stogner said. Responsible adults are capable of having one beer and remain in control, but abuse of anything can be harmful, he said.

“If you become addicted it can ruin your life,” Stogner said.

Stogner said he used to have a drinking problem, but after a DUI required him to seek help he learned how to be responsible. In spite of his fight against his addiction Stogner said he will not stop his son from drinking when he becomes old enough.

“He’s learned from me because I sat down with him and talked about it,” Stogner said. “Drinking alcohol is not wrong, it’s the abuse of it that is wrong, responsible adults should know when to say when and not get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated.”

“The debate is not about whether it’s OK for you to have a drink or not, that’s between you and the Lord,” said The Rev. Allan Hickman of Resurrection Life Worship Center. “The debate is whether or not we want the industry or not.”

Hickman said that he is not against progress, but he does not want the industry that comes along with a county being wet.

“I love progress, but there’s certain industry that you don’t want and this is one of them,” Hickman said.

“There are a lot of things that come with that industry I don’t feel like are family friendly, that’s why I’m standing against it.”

Voters should read the ballot carefully since the wording could potentially be confusing, Circuit Clerk Vikie Harriel said. The line that reads “I vote FOR coming out from under the dry law in Pearl River County, Mississippi” means the county should become wet and the line that reads “I vote AGAINST coming out from under the dry law in Pearl River County, Mississippi” means county should remain dry, Hariel said.