Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell addresses the members of the Ways and Means Committee meeting April 30.
Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said he was surprised.
Speaking during the April 30 Ways and Means Committee meeting, the Fair Committee chair from Westport said that he did not expect a request from the Agricultural Society to bring back a beer tent at the Essex County Fair for a one-year trail would be “so controversial.”
“This request by the fair board has been under serious discussion for the past three years,” Connell said. “This decision was not entered into lightly. It is a common practice at most of the fairs throughout New York to sell alcohol, including at the New York State Fair.”
Supervisors voted 11-5 to move the request for a beer tent to the full board meeting May 7, where it will be brought to a weighted vote.
Connell said that the tent and the liquor license had already been purchased for the beer tent, adding that the county had previously adopted a policy for alcohol use which the fair would fall under.
“This is a one-year trial,” Connell said. “No one is asking for the permanent permission of this board. It seems that the fair is being singled out because there are other organizations that use the grounds but now the fair.”
Connell said that the fair board had done its homework on the matter and asked his fellow supervisors to “respect” their work.
“I would ask that this board respects the fair board’s years of discussion on the matter and their recommendation,” he said. “I want this board to know that this is not a fly-by-night thing.”
County Chair and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said that he would support the measure, adding that he could be seen as a hypocrite if he did not.
“I am involved with celebrations in my own town where I have worked in the beer booth,” Douglas said. “With the new rules having a confined area for drinking does help. The events are more responsible and everyone is more aware of their surroundings. The plans that Mr. Connell have put in place are appropriate.”
“I am hoping that this would reduce the inappropriate drinking,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said. “I think that controlled and monitored beer drinking would be more appropriate.”
“We have been pushing our contract agencies to do more with less,” Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey said. “This is not a perfect scenario to add revenue, but there is a policy in place.“
“I support an alcohol free fair, but we have a policy in place that says groups can have alcohol at events,” Essex Supervisor Sharon Boisen said.
However, Lewis Supervisor David Blades said that he had to go on his experiences with the former beer tent as a member of the New York State Police.
“I became very jaded when I was wearing the gray uniform and called to the fairgrounds over and over again for disturbances that were involved with the use and abuse of alcohol,” Blades said.
“I had people coming up to me and congratulating me for voting against this,” Schroon Supervisor Michael Marnell said. “I don't doubt that the committee can control the crowd while they are in the tent, but it is after they leave the tent. The consequences are too great to take that chance.”
Willsboro Supervisor Ed Hatch said he did not feel the beer tent would have enough of an impact to the fair’s bottom line.
“I do not see where you are going to have a lot of profit from the beer tent,” he said.
Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said he felt having a beer tent at the fair would send the wrong message.
“I think that we are taking a step backwards,” Scozzafava said. “If (alcohol consumption) is taking place, shame on us and shame on whoever is supposed to be there to monitor it. I think that this sends the wrong message because we have DWI and drinking awareness events there every year.”
Marnell said that he felt Sheriff Richard Cutting and District Attorney Kristy Sprague should also give their opinion on the beer tent.
“If it passes, then we will treat and enforce it the way that we do with any other event,” Cutting said. “I worked when they had it there before, and there were problems. In this economy, it’s tough, and they are looking for different ways to make money.”
“What I worry about is all the stuff that can come with that,” Sprague said, who added that she wanted to see more from Connell and the fair board if the supervisors were going to ask for her official opinion.
Scozzafava, Blades, Marnell, Hatch and St. Armand Supervisors Joyce Morency voted against the resolution, while Boisen abstained from the vote. Chesterfield’s Gerald Morrow and North Elba’s Roby Politi were absent from the meeting.