Overton residents petition for alcohol sales

Overton residents have secured a petition to have the legal sale of beer and wine to be placed on the November ballot.

“The administration of this application and petition is running through the Overton City Secretary, Rachel Gafford,” said Kathie Wittner, Rusk County Elections Coordinator. “I have supplied her with the information she needs to do this job.”

According to Wittner and confirmed by Overton Mayor C.R. “Coach” Evans, Overton residents, including former mayor Robert Raney, picked up an application for petition to place the issue on the November ballot.

Efforts to reach Raney by telephone for comment were unsuccessful. Two other names that appeared on the application did not want to comment on the issue. That application, signed by 30 people, was turned into Gafford and a petition for ballot signatures was picked up. According to Wittner, the group has 60 days from the day the petition was picked up to get the required amount of signatures for the issue to be placed on the November ballot.

“From the information I received, the application and its signatures were certified as good and the petition was given,” Wittner said. “The city has issued the petition, and the people have 60 days to get the required signatures, turn the petition into the city and have those signatures verified.”

According to Wittner, and confirmed by Evans, 35 percent of the voters who voted in the last governor’s election are required on the petition to get the issue on the November ballot. That roughly means, according to calculations from Wittner and Evans, that 125 signatures will be needed on the petition.

“We had 300-plus voters in the last governor’s election,” Evans said. “That means we need, roughly, 115 to 125 signatures.”

If approved, Overton businesses such as gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores would be able to sell beer and wine.

Local ministers who were contacted did not want to go on the record but said they have mixed emotions when thinking about this issue. They said having people able to purchase beer and wine in Overton would keep them off of the roadways when buying these items, they would not have to drive to Kilgore, Henderson or Tyler, but they also feel the sale of alcohol in local stores is something that potentially can cause problems because it is so accessible then.

County Commissioner Bill Hale said he thinks the revenue would help Overton coffers, but as far as his feelings on the issue he wants the voters of Overton to make the decision.

Overton city council members — even the Mayor — have not commented as of yet as well. Evans said the city voters need to make the decision, if it reaches the ballot and if the required signatures are received and verified.

Overton joins other East Texas cities in trying to get the issue on the ballot. In recent years, Tyler, Henderson, Tatum and other communities in East Texas have successfully voted to have the sale of beer and wine for off premise consumption only, and even now other communities are joining Overton in hoping to have the issue on the November ballot.

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