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story.lead_photo.caption COURTESY PHOTO This map shows the dry portion of Prairie Grove city limits, as far as alcohol sales are concerned. The rest of the city is wet. The section is about one square mile and includes the downtown area. A new committee will circulate petitions for signatures to place a question on the ballot to make all of Prairie Grove wet.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- A newly formed committee called Historic Prairie Grove Revitalization is seeking to place a local option question on the November election ballot to allow the sale of alcohol within all of Prairie Grove city limits, according to Jerry Coyle, committee chairman.

Presently, an area of the city limits, one square mile mainly in the downtown section, is dry because of a vote held sometime in the early 1950s, said Larry Oelrich, the city's director of public works and administrative services. Citizens at that time voted they wanted Prairie Grove to be a dry community.

Any areas that were annexed into the city after the election came in as wet.

Larry Oelrich, the city's director of public works and administrative services, said that is why Dollar General is able to sell alcohol and why the former Walmart Express was able to sell alcohol. Those sections of town came in after the wet/dry election in the 1950s.

Historic Prairie Grove Revitalization Committee registered with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on March 9. The filing shows other officers and directors are Rick Ault, vice chairman, and members Mitch Bartholomew and Mike Fidler.

A brief statement about the proposed ballot question says, "to make Prairie Grove wet/dry areas all wet. Right now the old sections are dry and new ones are wet, to make Prairie Grove City Limits areas consistent."

Basically, Coyle said, the committee is proposing the question to clean up the lines in Prairie Grove so that the law is the same throughout the city limits.

Coyle said attorney John Everett of Prairie Grove is working on petitions for people to sign to place the question on the ballot. The plan is to put petitions in many businesses around town, not to hire an outside firm to solicit signatures on behalf of the committee.

Becky Lewellen, Washington County clerk, last week said the group will be required to have signatures from 38 percent of registered voters, as of June 1 of this year, to meet the criteria for calling a local option election on the question.

As of April 3, Prairie Grove city limits had 3,397 registered voters, according to the county clerk's office, meaning that if that number does not change before June 1, petitions must bear the signatures of at least 1,290 registered voters.

Signed petitions would be turned into the county clerk's office to be verified. Lewellen said her office has 10 days to verify signatures and if the petitions do not have enough qualified signatures, the committee would be given additional time to gather more signatures.

Ault, who owns Prairie Grove Event Center on Buchanan Street, said he's not looking at the issue from the viewpoint of a business owner but more for the economic vitality of the downtown area.

"This would give downtown a fair competitive advantage with the rest of the city as it expands outward," Ault said, adding he wants the city to be able to recruit new restaurants to the downtown area and to be able to retain downtown businesses.

Ault said he supports the proposal but at the same time believes it is important to let the community make the decision.

City Attorney Steven Parker said the proposal is an effort not to discriminate against any businesses based on location. The two Mexican restaurants along North Pittman Street are in the dry area and cannot sell alcohol, Parker said. However, a restaurant just outside the boundary would be able to apply for a permit from the state to sell alcohol.

"It could be considered discrimination on where they are in the city," Parker said, "So I think they are saying, 'Let's open it up to everyone.'"

General News on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Committee Seeks Wet Status For All Of Prairie Grove

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