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Mayor resolves to veto alcohol sales extension

Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell (center) tells the Mayfield City Council she intends to veto their one-hour nightly extension of bar alcohol sales within the city after they passed the ordinance on second reading 8-2 Monday evening. Rochetti-Cantrell has 10 days to veto the ordinance, which the city council can override if at least seven council members vote to do so.

SHELLEY BYRNE/The Mayfield Messenger

BY SHELLEY BYRNE sbyrne@mayfield-messenger.com

Mayfield Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell will veto an ordinance the city council approved Monday that would have extended bar alcohol sales by one hour nightly, but the city council could take action to override the veto.

Rochetti-Cantrell announced her veto will come within 10 days, as required by state law. She said Tuesday she intends to take the full 10 days before issuing it.

Rochetti-Cantrell said she made her decision after speaking to lawyers with the Kentucky League of Cities. It is the first time she has used her veto power.

Councilman Chuck Whitnell, who has served 19 years on the council, said he also could not recall any other mayors having previously vetoed anything.

City attorney Dennis Null said the city council, which had just approved the ordinance allowing the sale extension 8-2 on second reading, could override the mayor's veto if at least seven people vote to do so. The council must act no later than its regularly scheduled December meeting if it wishes to do so, but a special called meeting could come much sooner.

Councilman Steven Elder asked how many council members it takes to call a special meeting. Null said it would take six members, since that would constitute a majority. A special called meeting would require at least 24 hours' notice in writing before it could be held.

Rochetti-Cantrell said at the meeting that she struggled with her decision and prayed about it but ultimately felt in her heart that vetoing the ordinance was the best decision.

Immediately after her remarks, Matt Alexander, majority owner of the M.T. Winchester tavern, yelled out from the audience that she is supposed to make decisions with her head and not her heart.

He later slammed out the door. The tavern owners had originally asked to extend alcohol sales until 2 a.m. instead of the current midnight deadline. The council instead drafted an ordinance that would have extended sales until 1 a.m.

Alexander said Tuesday that he was "not happy" when he made the remarks, especially having invested so much in the tavern.

"I'm just shy of $500,000 that I have invested into the facility, the business, the community, the renovations, the whole nine yards," he said.

Directly as a result of the mayor's veto, he said he also would immediately end business plans for bringing an outbound call center to Mayfield.

"Her making this decision, even though it's probably going to be a 20 or so day delay, is probably going to cost me in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000," he said. "It is also going to cost the city of Mayfield another new business because what everyone needs to know is that (Monday) I had a meeting with the Graves County Economic Development board for a new business in Mayfield that would employ over 150 people with full-time jobs plus benefits, and I will now not be doing that in the city of Mayfield. I will either be moving that to the county or a surrounding town because I cannot allow emotion-filled leadership to potentially harm another one of my business investments."

He added that, as a partner in Frontier Firearms, he would also consider whether to relocate that business outside the city limits.

Ryan Drane, president of Graves County Economic Development, said he and Jodie Hansen, project manager, met with Alexander on Monday about the planned call center, although board members were not present. They discussed potential locations both in the city and in the county at that time, he said. Drane said Tuesday he had not discussed the location any more with Alexander since Monday.

Rochetti-Cantrell said Tuesday she was not acting solely on an emotional level with her veto.

"The reason for my veto was my head and the fact we had worked all those months on the ordinance to get it to where we thought it fit Mayfield," she said.

She said she did not feel the need to change the ending time for alcohol sales in bars, having just enacted the original ordinance in September 2016.

The council's vote and mayor's veto came after nine members of the community spoke against the ordinance, eight of them citing their Christian faith and opposition to drinking alcohol as among the reasons why they disapproved.

Elder voiced his approval for the ordinance and questioned whether extending alcohol sales by an hour would affect whether people chose to drink and drive or spend longer drinking and away from their families, as community members repeated frequently in their comments.

"I'm looking at the last 10 years, and fatalities have decreased," Elder said, adding that information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association showed a decrease in wrecks by 10,000, including those that involved alcohol.

"I would argue the people have gotten smarter as far as getting designated drivers," he said.

He suggested that those concerned about alcohol's effects on patrons should instead focus efforts on heightened enforcement, working with the owners of the M.T. Winchester and perhaps providing a service that would provide free rides home for anyone too drunk to drive.

"Legislation cannot solve moral character," Elder said.

Councilman Nate Cox also spoke in favor of it, saying that if all the problems community members addressed were already in Mayfield, extending alcohol sales by one hour would not make a significant difference.

Councilman Johnny Jackson said he had no trouble voting for the ordinance after Mayfield Police Chief Nathan Kent said at a previous meeting that he had no problem from a law enforcement perspective with extending the sales hours.

Whitnell and Councilman Wayne Potts were the only two who voted against the alcohol sales extension. Neither commented publicly on their reasons for doing so at Monday's meeting.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Approved 6-4 on first reading an ordinance that would increase the salary of the mayor who takes office in January 2019. As of 2003, the mayor's salary has been set at $32,000 annually, but with annual cost of living adjustments, she actually made $42,698.71 as of July 1. The ordinance would increase the mayor's salary to $54,475 and maintain the annual cost of living adjustments.

The measure must pass on second reading at the council's November meeting in order to become law.

Council members Jana Adams, Phil Myers, Jackson, Barry McDonald, Potts and Nick Summers voted in favor of the ordinance. Council members Elder, Whitnell, Kathy O'Nan and Cox voted against it.

• Approved 7-3 on first reading a job description for the mayor to include in the city's personnel handbook. Elder, Potts and Cox cast the dissenting votes.

• Unanimously approved on second reading maintaining the city's property tax rate at the same amount for another year.

• Unanimously approved additional ambulance fees that Medicaid and Medicare now allow.