PHOTO: Former Fort Payne Councilman Walter Watson addresses the meeting regarding the decision to move forward with Sunday Sales with a council vote. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Scroll Down for Video) At yesterday's meeting of the Fort Payne City Council, the city held the first reading of Ordinance 2018-02, amending Ordinance 2004-14, the Alcohol Ordinance, to allow for sales of alcoholic beverages during certain hours on Sunday.
Yesterday was the first reading of the ordinance; the vote will take place at the next regular meeting of the Fort Payne City Council on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Approval of the ordinance will legalize sale of alcohol in the city limits on Sunday.
In a 3-2 vote right before Christmas, the Fort Payne City Council approved a resolution to send the Sunday Alcohol Sales issue to Montgomery for approval, and then hold a final vote of the council on the issue.
In earlier meetings, the issue was to be sent to the public for a vote. City Attorney Rocky Watson explained in the December meeting that, “when we presented this act to our legislative delegation they suggested some changes based on what they had seen everywhere else, and it puts the ultimate action on the city council. That’s the change they recommended to us.”
At the end of the meeting, former Fort Payne City Councilman Walter Watson and several others, urged a vote on the issue:
"I really appreciate all of you guys, and the positions that you hold," said Walter Watson. "You have a difficult task in front of you. It's something that's important to me as a citizen, as I sat on the council chambers in 2004, I remember us having a discussion with the city, and the members here about the sale of alcohol in our city. It may have caused some families to have a discussion that may have been a little heated. But we still held the tradition of allowing the people to have a conversation concerning whether we wanted it here or not.
"I was on the side that opposed it," he continued. "I was also on the council that had to come behind after the vote was levied and determined that we wanted to sell it. So, my job was to be sure that we controlled it. Before we did that, I remember, and I think Andy was there to, we had to draft and ordinance, and that ordinance explained how we would govern the sale of alcohol. And in that, we wanted to protect a day that some thought to be sacred, and that was Sunday. So, because of that, those leaders decided to draft that, give it to the people, and see if that will help move it forward. That point in time, we did do that, and I think it was a factor in helping it to go, because we said we would protect something that's sacred."
"I don't want this conversation, for you guys to think I'm against the sale of alcohol; we have it here, and we do an excellent job of making sure that Fort Payne remains Fort Payne. But it's about something that I'm concerned about deep in our nation, and that's removing things that are sacred. I think God has blessed Fort Payne, I think God has blessed America, but I think if we continue on a path that can probably restrict him from blessing us: by not following him and not obeying some things that he has told us to do, we can put ourselves in a dangerous spot," said Watson.
"I think about the story about the frog that was in the kettle, we all know that, they put him in the kettle and he didn't know his intent was to eat him. So he turned the temperature up really slowly, and after the frog found out that it wasn't in his best interest for him to be in the pot, it was too late. Because he couldn't jump out. I just don't want to see our city turn into that type of environment; I like for people to have a say," explained Watson.
"I would like to thank you guys for not having a decision today, where you suspend the rules," Watson said. "I know you guys can vote on it. I have to say I was at a forum, and I remember the question was asked, 'What do you think about the sale of alcohol on Sundays?' I think Johnny (Eberhart) said, 'Not at this time.' So everybody was honest, and tried to be forthright in how they felt. It's a difficult question to answer when you are trying to be elected. But I can remember the majority... I think Wade's statement stood out the most, 'If you can't get it done in six, you can't get it done in seven,' so it was a little bit surprising to me when I came to a council meeting and found out it was going to be back on the docket again."
"But after I heard it would be sent to the legislators and allow the people to have a say in it, I kind of rested a little bit. But then I found that it was sent to the legislators, and perhaps with the theme, if you really want to get it pushed through it's better to let us re-draft it so you guys have the authority to move this thing forward. Then the wait came on to see if you would actually do it or if you allow it to go forward, perhaps there is going to be some (debate) that goes on. Please let the (debate) go on, because that's part of my (debate). Because I really think it is important; because I think it is a sacred day," he continued.
"And I want Fort Payne to always be blessed and it's those little subtle things that I hear about, there is somebody that there is trying to take 'In God We Trust' off the dollar, there is somebody that is trying to take 'one nation under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance.... These people are just raising up out of everywhere and trying to turn our nation in to something that it wasn't founded on. It's those little bitty, subtle things that chips away at our patriotism and our morals of this country, and I don't want us to be a part of it."
"I'm just one citizen; but I wanted to come before you guys and say, I definitely appreciation the job that you do, and thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today, and my prayers are that God will continue to lead you and guide you along the path to keeps his presence alive in Fort Payne. And if somebody comes to Fort Payne and says, 'We don't like it, because you don't have this, or you don't have that.' We can say, 'Yes, but we do have the blessings of God on our city; it's more important than anything," He stated.
Thank you very much for your time," concluded Watson.
After Watson spoke, Walter Turner also addressed the council: "Honorable Mayor and Council, so glad to have this opportunity to speak to you. I'm in an agreement with brother Walter; It's one of those situations to where as a bible believer, then I feel it necessary to sourish the issue, and really stand before God and give an account. To stand before him, and we had the opportunity to stand for what is right. And I believe observing Sunday, and worship, and acknowledging God; giving Him time. Because in our society, it's so busy, and it seems like people forget about God. But you know, I know this is just a small thing, when it comes to the sale of alcohol, but I believe that we are still acknowledging the fact that we reverence the day, as unto the Lord. I just think that is something that we would appreciate very much if you bare that in mind."
Councilman Gerald Taylor then commented, "I'd like to make a comment on what they had to say. I recall during the forum, being asked if I was for the sale of alcohol on Sundays, and I said, 'no,' and I still believe that way and I still remember what I said and I still don't intend to support. When it passed in (2004), prior to me being on the council, that went to a vote of the people and I agree with what's been said. I really think to change this, in this matter, it still should be a vote of the people."
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