Alcohol, referendum in question on this year's ballot

  • Posted: 11/7/2012 4:21 PM
    6/1/2013 6:17 PM

North Augustans will have a chance to vote on a countywide referendum and a local question on Tuesday's ballot, in addition to casting their votes on the individual candidate races.

Local question

The local question asks if the S.C. Department of Revenue should be authorized to issue temporary permits for 24 hours to allow for the "possession, sale and consumption of alcohol liquor by the drink ..." If approved, the local question would allow for Sunday alcohol sales on premises (in a restaurant) and for beer and wine off-premises sales (in a convenience or a grocery store). The question does not allow for off-premises alcohol sale, because that is under state control and, by law, liquor stores are not allowed to be open in South Carolina on Sunday - no matter what the locale wants. Currently neither alcohol nor beer and wine can be sold in North Augusta on Sundays. A vote "yes" would change that.

Countywide referendum

Then there is a countywide referendum that asks if the form of Aiken County's government should be changed from its current form, Council/Administrator, to that of a Council/Manager form of government. Both are described in the S.C. Code of Laws, Title 4, Chapter 9, Article 7 and Article 9.

The major difference in the current form of government and the Council/Manager form of government would be in how the Aiken County Treasurer and Aiken County Auditor are selected.

In the current form of county government those positions are elected. In the proposed Council/Manager form of government, those positions would come under the County Manager and would be appointed, not elected.

As it is, the treasurer and auditor are elected by the voting population and technically do not report to the Aiken County Council; however, their staff and their budget must be supplied by Aiken County Council.

In the new form, those positions would report to the County Manager and to Aiken County Council.

This year's election, in particular, has shown potential pitfalls of a critical county position being elected rather than appointed by County Council with no name on the ballot for Aiken County Treasurer and a host of write-in candidates.

On Nov. 6, Aiken county residents will make a choice on either electing the treasurer and auditor position or moving to a manager form of government where the positions will be managed under the oversight of county council and the county administrator. A majority of Council voted to put this referendum on the ballot because it was important for residents to make this decision.

Aiken County Councilman from North Augusta Chuck Smith has gone on the record with his support of the change in government, based on the situation with the auditor's and treasurer's races. He has pointed out that the treasurer, for example, now is the sole person in Aiken County with control of a $50 million budget.

"To be elected to those positions, you only need a high school education," said Smith of both treasurer and auditor. He maintained that, with the volume and complexity of the finances of Aiken County in 2012, that "higher skill levels are most important in those positions."

On the other side of that topic is Council Chair Ronnie Young, who has argued that if the requirements for auditor and treasurer are inadequate, that's something only the S.C. legislature can change.

He has maintained the current system, with the auditor and treasurer being elected, "works well because their independence serves as a system of checks and balances."

Young said, "This effort to change our form of government would take your right to vote for your treasurer and auditor away - a right that has been afforded our citizens for decades."