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Forest Park rejects Sunday alcohol sales

Other Clayton cities approve

Forest Park was the only municipality in Clayton County, Tuesday, to turn down a referendum giving city leaders the authority to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Ward 4 incumbent Councilwoman Linda Lord said she was surprised the voters failed to carry the measure.

“I was surprised, although it was not a big issue to me,” she said. “I thought the Council deserved the right to vote on it but that’s what the people wanted.”

Lovejoy voters cast ballots for the alcohol referendum, but because city officials didn’t get the measure approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in time, the votes don’t count, said Billy Williams, Lovejoy poll manager.

City Clerk Marie Burnham said ballots included the referendum in hopes that Justice officials would sign off on it in time. The request was sent to the Justice Department Sept. 14, making the deadline to get approval six days past Election Day.

“The [Department of Justice] has 60 days to respond to the request and we haven’t received it yet,” she said. “We thought we’d have it in on time.”

City Attorney L’Erin Barnes said she was appointed in October and reviewed the referendum to provide the City Council with an update. But, Barnes said she found the application incomplete. The application was completed and re-submitted with expedited consideration.

“In hopes of getting an affirmative response from [the Department of Justice] in time for advertisement, the city ordered the ballots with the question,” said Barnes.

Burnham added that voters will get a chance to vote on the referendum in a special election, which will be held to elect a new mayor, possibly as early as March.

In Riverdale, voters overwhelmingly approved the possibility of Sunday alcohol sales, 305-174, according to the unofficial results posted Tuesday night. Riverdale residents Martha and Eddie McKinney had differing opinions on the issue.

“You got six days during the week [to purchase alcohol],” said Martha McKinney, “so you need one day for rest and one day for God’s people.”

Dr. Leon Beeler, CEO and founder of the Forest Park Ministers Association, said alcohol sales should be limited because drinkers tend to over-indulge.

“We can look back in the Bible and find incidents where people over-indulge and it ends in disaster,” he said. “It is the same today ... We’ve seen the toll alcohol takes on the family and the community.”

Beeler preached on the measure from his pulpit at Gateway Restoration Church in Jonesboro in the weeks leading up to the election.

“We don’t tell people how to vote, but let them know what they need to know to cast informed votes,” he said.

Martha McKinney also opposes Sunday alcohol sales because she believes the number of drunk drivers continues to increase.

However, her husband disagreed, saying people should have the right to purchase alcohol whenever they want, no matter the day of the week. “That’s their personal right,” he said. “If you have been to church, said your prayers and blessing, and if you want to have a little [to drink] afterward, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Despite his support, Eddie McKinney said he favors limiting Sunday sales to after 1 p.m.

College Park voters also supported the referendum, 674-383, said City Clerk Lakeitha Reeves. Lake City voters approved the measure 103-96. Jonesboro also supported the referendum, 199-133.

Morrow was the only Clayton municipality that did not have Sunday alcohol sales on the ballot.

Staff writers Maria Jose Arauz, Jeylin White and Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.