By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
By a margin of just under a hundred votes, the city of Corbin approved the sale of alcoholic beverages by the package Tuesday night. The final total was 887 in favor to 789 against.
It means package liquor stores will be permitted to legally sell liquor, wine and beer in Corbin soon. It also means grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets in Corbin can sell beer by the package after those who apply are approved for a license to sell package beer.
Presently the sale of beer, wine and liquor by the drink is permitted in larger restaurants in Corbin. That measure passed in 2006.
In the seven Corbin precincts in Whitley County, the margin was 724 in favor to 658 against.
Five precincts and the total absentee ballots voted “Yes,” while two precincts voted “No” on the Whitley County side of town.
The “Yes” vote carried in Precinct #7 (City Hall) by a vote of 57 yes to 34 no. It also won in Precinct #15 (South Corbin) with 65 yes to 53 no. Precinct #40 (the old Disney’s Garage precinct) voted wet, with 50 yes to 35 no. So did Precinct #41 (at Corbin Middle School) with 76 voting yes to 46 voting no. In addition, Precinct #45 (the Corbin precinct) also voted for the sale of liquor by the package, with 185 voting yes to 164 voting no. In addition, the total absentee ballots were in favor of going wet, with 17 yes to 15 no. Out of the absentees, the machine ballot absentee vote went 12 yes to 10 no, while the paper ballot absentee vote was tied at 5 yes and 5 no.
The “No” vote carried in two Corbin precincts in Whitley County. Those against the sale of liquor by the package won in Precinct #32 (the South Ward precinct) by a vote of 164 no to 150 yes. And the dry vote also won in Precinct #33 (the Mastertown precinct), with 147 voting no while 124 voted yes.
While both wet and dry forces carried a precinct apiece, and the drys won in absentees, the wet forces won the total vote on the Knox County side of Corbin, with 163 yes to 131 no.
The “Yes” vote took the North Corbin Precinct, by a vote of 134 in favor of alcohol package sales, to 99 against. But the East Corbin Precinct saw those opposed to package liquor sales win, with 28 voting no to 26 voting yes. In addition, those voting dry carried the absentee ballot votes in the two Knox precincts, with four no to three yes.
A relieved Mario Cima, who’s treasurer of the pro-alcohol group Corbin Citizens for Economic Project, asked for people in the city to come together and work toward progress.
“I have some mixed emotions, because I have some good friends who think the wet vote will turn the town into a Sodom and Gomorrah situation. I definitely do not think that is going to happen. It’s a proven fact that other towns like Danville, Elizabethtown and Whitesburg have not had any additional problems. They’ve had no rise in DUI’s. I hope this sends a message to our city. We’ve had on communications with our city leaders and our community. And I think it’s time for our community to get off their hands and reach out to others. We’ve got to say something, instead,” Cima told the Times-Tribune after the votes were counted inside the District Courtroom at Corbin City Hall.
Cima added, “It’s time for us to come together as a community, by being good citizens, and good leaders. I predict a year from now there will be no big changes in the city with the alcohol by the package. I only pray that those who do use alcohol will use common sense and use good judgement before they drink and decide to drive. It is a choice, a personal choice. In my prayer, I say, make it a smart choice.”
After the votes were counted, Rev. Chad Fugit, who’s pastor of Central Baptist Church in Corbin and leader of the anti-alcohol group Concerned Citizens of Corbin, said it’s time to return to caring for the community.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the outcome of the vote. We had hoped the citizens would have defeated the measure. But at the same time, we feel we did everything that we could to inform the folks of the matter that was at hand, and that was our purpose all along. Our group has never been politically-oriented at all. It was really a group of concerned citizens that wanted to inform our community,” said Fugit.
Fugit further noted, “We looked at it through an economic lens, a social lens and a moral lens. When we looked at all three of those lenses, we couldn’t see how this could bring any good to Corbin. We felt like we wouldn’t be loving our community if we didn’t give them an alternate perspective. And I feel like we were very successful in doing that. Our heart has always been to love this community, and my mission wouldn’t have changed, no matter what the outcome was tonight.”
As for problems with the election, Whitley County Court Clerk Kay Schwartz said that with a couple of complaints about signs being near two polls, it went well.
“We had a complaint about campaign signs too close to the polling places. One was a sign near Corbin Middle School. When Sheriff Harrell (Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell) and Officer Miller (of the Corbin Police Department) investigated and measured the distance, they found it was 355 feet. You can’t have a campaign sign within 300 feet of the entrance to a polling place. It was okay. Aside from that, the turnout’s been good. Even for a rainy day.”
Tuesday’s turnout in the special local-option election came up to 32.9 percent of the registered voters on both the Whitley and Knox County sides of town. That 32.9 percent came out to 1,382 persons who cast their ballots in Corbin’s nine city precincts — seven precincts in Whitley County and two Knox County precincts.
Carl Keith Greene contributed to this story.