Havana voters will soon get to have a say in a request for Sunday afternoon liquor sales after a Tuesday council vote to add a straw ballot to April’s election slate.
Havana Package Store owner Bud Branson and his son Mark, who both work at the facility, requested the additional hours, saying there are several stores with such sales within walking distance of Havana.
Bud Branson said the town’s ordinance prohibiting Sunday sales is discriminatory. “We’ve been in business 14 months, and it’s been a little rough. We have to give up sales one day a week,” he said in requesting the council amend or repeal the prohibition ordinance to be more like other Gadsden municipalities. “We’re at a competitive disadvantage,” he added in asking for sales to be allowed Sunday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“Alcohol is a legal substance. If someone wants a drink or a cigarette, they can get it,” said councilman Bobby Miller.
Town manager Howard McKinnon advised the board that the last time the issue was brought forward, they had discussed having a straw ballot of residents to see what people felt about it, but it was ruled out because of the prohibitive costs of holding a special election for the issue.
The issue will be polled through the non-binding straw ballot during the town’s regular elections for Groups 4, 5, 6 and 7 council members on April 29th, and will not cost the town anything to add to the ballot. The straw ballot will include specific language limiting such additional sales of liquor strictly to 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
“The straw ballot is a good way to go,” said councilman David Norman.
Those having a say on the straw ballot will be limited to residents of the Town of Havana only.
The town approved voluntary annexations for two properties on the east side of town. Both properties, one owned by the town and one owned by Butler Funding, Inc., formerly known as C.V. Butler Farms, Inc., will be used as the location for the town’s new well and a buffering zone for a combined acreage of 9.5 acres adjacent to the east side of Twin Ponds subdivision. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has given approval and permitting for the new well, said town manager Howard McKinnon.
A new contract with the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia (MGA/GA) was given the nod at the council meeting as well. The current contract expires later this year. MGA/GA representative Eric Blum said he covers 25 cities in this area. The company, he said, combines 79 communities in purchasing wells and pre-paid natural gas to get low rates. MGA/GA buys about $1.5 billion in gas supplies.
“I don’t think the City of Tallahassee owns natural gas wells - Havana does,” he said of the 655 wells owned by the group. “We buy wells so you can save your customers money,” Blum said about the lock-in of pricing of the gas process utilized. “You don’t have to play the market…the risk is gone. Your margin is guaranteed.”
McKinnon reported to the council that in the aftermath of the natural gas explosion that felled two apartment buildings in New York City recently, the Florida Public Service Commission is inspecting gas systems statewide. “They’re here this morning, inspecting ours. We have no problem with that - we embrace it,” McKinnon said. “That’s the confidence we have in our team and our system. I’m proud of them.”
The town is nearing completion of replacing metal with plastic inserts to avoid leaks, he said.
Councilman Matt Thro said he and McKinnon had traveled to Washington, D.C. for a rally with legislators. They discussed three issues with Havana-area representatives, including municipal bonds to help fund infrastructure, cyber threats, and EPA regulations that are coming up soon, he said.