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Henderson County ABC board members on Wednesday said they would decline to take a $150 a meeting payment that the county commissioners authorized two days ago.
Board member George Erwin said he would decline to take the payment until the board gets the results of a market study to help guide the decision on whether to build a liquor store in unincorporated Henderson County. Board chairman Beau Waddell and members Rick Holbert and Pat Jones also said they would not request the $150 per meeting payment.
Before their decisions, county Finance Director Carey McClelland said the Board of Commissioners had authorized pay of $150 per meeting and that the board members would need only to file for the check to get paid. After he left, board members said they don't plan to do that.
"I'm going to follow up with Beau Waddell and see what he tells me," McClelland said when the Lightning asked about the status of board pay.
In a meeting that lasted just 12 minutes, the ABC board authorized a $9,000 contract to the Martin-McGill consulting company to examine population forecasts, the general competitive market, potential target markets, existing outlets, "jurisdictional constraints" and the "best apparent locations" for a liquor store. ABC board members said they expected the study to take at least 60 days.
An earlier proposal from Martin-McGill would have cost $38,000 and covered the marketing question in more detail. Board members said it was possible the preliminary study could trigger the need for the more in-depth analysis by the marketing company.
"I can see a study saying you need 15,000 people and you've only got 9,000 people," Erwin said. "If we disband, at least there's a thorough study in place" that a revived board could use.
Board members also asked McClelland whether the county anticpated an ongoing budget for the ABC board for the 2013-14 budget year. McClelland said he thought the county budget makers plan to "plug something in" for the new fiscal year.
The county board, formed last summer after Henderson County voters approved liquor sales countywide, asked last month for $9,000 to study where it might build a new ABC store. The county Board of Commissioners delayed acting but took up the question again Monday night and nearly tripled the ABC board's request. Commissioners voted 4-1, with Grady Hawkins voting no, to allocate $25,000 to the ABC board — $10,000 for a marketing study, $12,000 as pay for the ABC board members and $3,000 for supplies.
State statutes authorize ABC board member pay of $150 a meeting, County Manager Steve Wyatt said after the meeting. Commissioners had discussed board pay when they appointed the five-member body but said at the time that they planned to withhold pay until the board started a store and could pay itself from the proceeds. At $150 a meeting between now and July 1 — three meetings if no special meetings are called — board pay would cost the county $2,250. Commissioners allocated $12,000 for board pay, or $9,750 more than the ABC board needs to cover the amount April through July. The allocation was for the remaining quarter of the current fiscal year.
ABC board chairman Beau Waddell defended the marketing study despite warnings by the city ABC boards that the county is saturated with liquor stores. Hendersonville operates three stores and Laurel Park and Fletcher one each. Board members and managers from all three city ABC systems have told the new county ABC board they see no need for a sixth store and that, in fact, a sixth store could put one or more existing stores out of business.
"The question was posed on the ballot," Waddell told commissioners. "We have to put some validity in the elections process. Whether these same people can support a store is our question. The reason I'm standing here is the first question (of whether to allow liquor stores in unincorporated Henderson County) was answered. Our board was formed because of that question."
The board has no budget and could not pay a consultant to conduct a marketing study of where a store might succeed.
"If you don't fund us I don't know what we're going to do," he said. "I guess one possibility is to disband."
The ABC board is not committed to building a new store, he said. It needs the information to decide whether to proceed or not.
"If the study comes back that the county won't support a store in the unincorporated area then our budget come July 1 will be zero and it should be," he said.