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Sunday alcohol sales generating minimal input locally

Early indications are few, whether residents in Henry County's four cities will support alcohol sales on Sundays.

The issue is a referendum to be decided in Tuesday's municipal elections in McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton and Locust Grove.

This summer, the McDonough City Council voted unanimously to put the issue on the ballot. McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland said he has received only minimal feedback from residents in his city, regarding how they feel about Sunday alcohol sales. "I've only heard one comment, and that was third-hand," said Copeland. "I have not had one call about it."

The mayor added that, due to the lack of chatter from residents about alcohol sales on Sundays, he is unable to gauge Tuesday's vote on the subject.

"I wouldn't even hazard a guess," said Copeland.

Similar uncertainties are being reported in Stockbridge, Henry County's most populous city. The Stockbridge City Council has voiced support for a vote on Sunday alcohol sales.

Stockbridge City Administrator Ray Gibson said he has no idea what choice voters will make, however. "I've heard mixed feelings both ways," said Gibson. "I've heard a few people here and there say they support it, and a few others who don't. It hasn't been overwhelming."

Gibson added that he is remaining neutral on the issue. "It's in the citizens' hands to vote on, and we'll let them make the decision," he said.

Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Kay Pippin said the level of interest in the vote has been so-so. "It's been amazingly quiet on that referendum," said the business group leader. "The Georgia General Assembly decided to push that issue to the grassroots level, and leave the decision to the voters. That means we'll see how the voters feel about it after Tuesday. I've heard nothing. I haven't heard a single person voice their opinion on that subject."

Elections officials have tallied 1,742 ballots in early balloting combined from among the county's four cities.

As of 1:15 p.m., on Friday, the City of Hampton voted 335 residents, the City of Locust Grove voted 167, and the City of Stockbridge voted 739, according Janet Shellnutt, the director of Henry County Elections and Registration. She added that 501 ballots had been cast in the City of McDonough by 11:30 a.m., Friday.

The Sunday alcohol sales votes in Georgia's municipal elections, resulted from Senate Bill 10, which was passed by the state legislature in March, and later signed into to law by Gov. Nathan Deal. The new law allows voters to approve Sunday alcohol sales at grocery and convenience stores. Currently, alcohol can only be sold on Sundays in Georgia at establishments such as restaurants and lounges.

Few residents in Hampton have voiced an opinion about the Sunday alcohol sales issue, according to City Manager Andy Pippin.

"Honestly, I don't think I've had one conversation with a citizen about it," he said. "The only things I've heard are from candidates who are running for city council on the same election date. They seem to be split down the middle on it."

The Hampton City Council also voted to allow residents of the city to vote on Sunday alcohol sales.

"My feeling is, regardless of whether you're for it or not, I think it was wise to let the citizens vote on it," said Pippin. "The only piece of information that would lead me to form an opinion on how the vote will turn out, would be the results from the last November ballot, where the citizens voted to allow a package store within the city limits. That was on last year's ballot, and that was decided by a very close margin, in favor of allowing it. It will be a very close decision this time, as well."

Staff writer Johnny Jackson contributed to this article.