City considers mail-out voting for beer, wine

Mike Linn

An election to decide whether to allow beer and wine licenses for restaurant owners in Portales may come as soon as April.
The Portales City Council authorized a search for city funds to conduct a mail-out election that would cost the city roughly $13,500. According to City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry, the mail-out election would increase voter turnout on an issue that has been lauded by restaurant owners and city officials seeking a boost in economic development.
Initially, Councilman Jake Lopez made a motion to wait until the next fiscal year in July before moving toward planning the special election. He said waiting would allow for money to be budgeted for the election.
The motion died when it received no second. City officials will vote at the Jan. 20 council meeting on whether to allocate the funds to hold the April election.
Critics say beer and wine licenses only allow for more alcohol-related incidents, such as driving under the influence and automobile accidents. According to state law, however, beer and wine can only be served with food and drink limits are required.
In restaurants with liquor licenses, like the Cattle Baron and The Roosevelt, alcohol can be served with or without food.
The difference is a liquor license can cost $200,000 to attain and about $1,200 to renew each year. A beer and wine license is $1,050 annually.
In a special election in Artesia 30 percent of registered voters filled out ballots during a mail-out election as opposed to the 10 percent average that voted at the poles during previous elections, Martinez-Terry said.
“You’ll get better turnout with a mail-out election,” Martinez-Terry said, “and we like good turnout.”
The postage — including return postage provided — for the election would run roughly $3,705. Martinez-Terry said that figure would could be cut in half if the city council decides for voters to pay for their own return postage.
There are roughly 6,500 registered voters in the city.

Also at the meeting:

— The council discussed priorities for funding from the New Mexico Legislature. City Manager Debi Lee presented a laundry list of projects, many involving street improvements, that city officials thought needed state funding.
Lee asked the council to help prioritize the projects. In all, the city is requesting roughly $2.42 million from the state, but that figure may change after the council decides on a list of priorities.

— The council approved five additional credit cards for Portales fire fighters. The cards are necessary when fire fighters transport people to hospitals outside of the area and need to bunk up in a different city for the evening, Fire Chief Steve Beaty noted.
— The council approved the donation of a 1979 fire truck from the Portales Fire Department to the Arch Fire Department. Arch officials said the truck is 10 years younger than their current one.