The Malvern Downtown Development Corporation is the latest local entity to show public support for the Vote Hot Spring County Wet initiative, a movement led by local business and community leaders who want to see a local option on the November ballot that would empower voters to decide if Hot Spring County should allow alcohol sales within county limits.
The downtown group recently released a resolution in favor of getting the issue on the ballot, which is comparable in verbiage and intent to similar resolutions from the Malvern City Council, the Hot Spring County Quorum Court, the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce, the Hot Spring County Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Rockport, all of whom have drafted legislation that voices support for a voter decision on the issue.
The group also recently drafted Resolution #2021-01 to acknowledge the potential economic benefits “going wet” could bring to the county, in terms of development and prosperity.
The resolution states, in part, “The purpose of the Malvern Downtown Development Corporation (MDDC) is to promote downtown Malvern as the hub of community life, to instill spirit of community and encourage economic development through various events, educational programs, historical awareness, preservation, and renovation…”
To that end, the group took into account a 2018 economic impact study compiled by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at UALR. The non-biased report looked at national statistics and data from other counties that made the move from dry to wet, to examine the impact allowing alcohol sales could have on economic revenue through taxes, construction, and employment. The report also examined the impact alcohol sales might have on the number and severity of traffic incidents, DWI’s and drug-related offenses.
The 2018 report showed that allowing alcohol sales within county limits could add up to 43 temporary jobs and raise $45,000 in property taxes. The move would generate around $3 million in construction salaries and expenditures. The report also showed long-term benefits could reach up to a $250,000 increase in sales tax revenue and bring in 54 full- and part-time jobs, adding an additional $2 million in salary wages.
The 2018 report estimated a decrease in DWI offenses by 23 percent, along with a 20 percent decrease in drug arrests. Traffic accidents and policing expenditures would likely decrease as well, according to the estimates in the study.
All these positive aspects predicted in the study make the idea of going wet an appealing idea to many in the community, although the opposition to the move has been abundant and unwavering throughout the county since the early days of Prohibition. A 1943 vote “abolished the sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquors within Hot Spring County,” as stated in the resolution put out by the Malvern City Council, but some citizens think the time has come to rethink the issue in relation to the demands and needs of a modern society and the benefits such a move would bring.
The citizens involved in the Vote HSC Wet initiative hope to share what they’ve learned with other members of the community as the group gathers signatures. They need signed affirmation of support from 38 percent of the registered voters in Hot Spring County to get the option on the November ballot.
The group will do more drive-up petition events and neighborhood canvassing in the near future, as they need to collect the required signatures by early June to ensure a chance to vote on the subject in the November election. Those interested in keeping up with the group’s efforts or learning about their next petition-signing event should check out the “Vote Hot Spring County Wet” Facebook page for the more information.
The above information was written in reference to statistics taken from Jim Rice’s report on Vote Hot Spring County Wet at a recent Malvern Lion’s Club meeting. For more information on the campaign, email email@example.com or visit the group on their Facebook page @votehotspringcountywet.