02/01/10 — ABC chief will talk to county leaders

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ABC chief will talk to county leaders

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 1, 2010 1:46 PM

Mike Myrick, the business manager for Wayne County Alcoholic Beverage Control, will update county commissioners Tuesday about the county's ABC operations.

Commissioners will be briefed on their agenda at 8 a.m., followed by the meeting at 9 a.m. in the boardroom on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Privatization of the ABC system has been the topic of some discussion statewide following a study that suggested the move might be a way to help smaller, struggling stores.

The ABC system also is attempting to ride out recent controversies concerning a liquor company that paid for a $12,700 dinner attended by Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control leaders and the New Hanover County father-and-son store administrators who were paid more than $400,000 combined a year.

Commission Chairman Jack Best briefly mentioned privatization during a recent board session.

"I have been hearing that a few (commissioners) want to look at privatizing," said Myrick, who is the president of the state ABC Association.

Myrick has sent letters to association members encouraging them to meet with their respective appointing board to share information about how the ABC system works.

Private stores are interested in profits, not control, he said. Based on the last two states that went private, the county could expect to see anywhere from a five-to-10-fold increase in the number of stores selling alcohol, which would mean 30 to 60 such stores in the county.

"I don't want that," he said.

Myrick said he does not think the state is not going to let the system go private because it is making too much money.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, Wayne County produced $1,343,146 in alcohol tax revenues for the state. Wayne County generated $6.6 million last year in ABC sales. The state received $1.238 million in excise tax revenues and total tax revenue of $1.343 million.

The state last year increased the excise tax on alcohol sales from 25 to 30 percent. In the first three months that increase has taken $56,000 that otherwise would have been local revenues. Over a year that could translate into $170,000 in lost revenues, Myrick said. The state has not indicated whether the increase will be permanent, he said.

Along with setting the excise tax, the state also sets the price of alcohol.

North Carolina is one of 18 control states and is the only one where the stores are locally run and operated. There are more than 150 ABC Boards in the state. About 50 are county boards and the remainder is city boards.

North Carolina is 45th in the nation in alcohol consumption, but seventh in revenue.

"For a controlled state, that is balance you want," he said.

In other business, Tuesday:

* Debbie Jones, director of the Wayne County Department of Social Services, will update commissioners on programs and services the department provides.

* Joe Gurley, emergency services director, will update the board on his department and on the new radio system.

* Commissioners also will consider action on four subdivision plats.

* The board will be asked to issue a proclamation designating February as Black History Month.

* In their consent agenda, commissioners are expected to act on a memorandum of understanding with the Rural Transportation Planning Organization that serves Wayne, Duplin, Greene and Lenoir counties.

The memorandum spells out how the RPO is organized and how the areas will work together for transportation planning.