Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting (back) and District Attorney Kristy Sprague (middle) both spoke at the Essex County Board of Supervisors May 7 on the topic of a beer tent at the Essex County Fair. The resolution, which had passed the Ways and Means Committee, was defeated.
Several Essex County supervisors reversed their course as a resolution to allow a beer tent at the Essex County Fair fell May 7.
The resolution for a one-year trial beer tent to be positioned in the horse barn area of the grounds passed through the Public Woks and Ways and Means Committee meetings, but fell when brought before the full board by a 1,687 - 1,117 weighted vote.
Tom Scozzafava (Moriah), David Blades (Lewis), Michael Marnell (Schroon), Ed Hatch (Willsboro) and Joyce Morency (St. Armand), who voted against the resolution at the Ways and Means level, were joined by Sharon Boisen (Essex), Gerald Morrow (Chesterfield), William Ferebee (Keene), Ronald Moore (North Hudson), Debra Malaney (Ticonderoga) and Randy Preston (Wilmington).
Boisen had abstained from voting in the Ways and Means Committee, while Morrow was absent from the April 30 vote. All others had voted yes before the full board meeting.
Voting yes for the resolution were Charles Harrington (Crown Point), Margaret Bartley (Elizabethtown), Randy Douglas (Jay, board chair), Sue Montgomery-Corey (Minerva), Roby Politi (North Elba) and Daniel Connell (Westport). Newcomb Supervisor George Canon was absent from the meeting.
The vote came after three addresses to the board, one by a mother of a 4-H participant, and the others from the Essex County Sheriff and District Attorney.
“I am here with a concern for the possibility of a beer tent coming back to the Essex County Fair,” Robin Severance of Westport said. “I remember the impact of a beer tent well. I remember 4-H leaders sleeping with a pitch fork when there was an active beer tent at the fair.”
DA Kristy Sprague said that she had recently talked with one of those parents, current state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.
“She told me that she did spend nights sleeping with a pitch fork overnight,” Sprague said. “I am here as a public safety officer and my job is to promote whatever is going to be best for the public safety of the county. Whenever you introduce alcohol to an event, you are going to increase the risk. To support an opinion in favor of a beer tent goes against everything that we stand for in public safety.”
“If anyone can tell me there is a positive of selling beer, I am willing to listen, but I doubt there is,” Severance said.
Sprague said that she felt the county should be proud of the fact that the county ran an alcohol-free fair.
“We should be advocating this,” Sprague said, adding that she hoped more steps would be taken to keep alcohol off the grounds.
“If we are going to be alcohol-free, then we have to be zero-tolerance,” she said.
“I am not naive enough to think that there is not alcohol there right now,” Sheriff Cutting said. “It is low-key and if we do find it, we take care of it.”
Cutting said that he has been avalanched with calls and e-mails about the topic over the last week.
“I am starting to understand a little about the seat that you sit in because since last week's article, I have been receiving emails and phone calls,” Cutting said. “The people who are for the beer sales are not the ones that are coming to talk to us. It is the ones who have the concerns, and a lot of them a valid.”
Cutting said that his office would act accordingly to any request they were given, including increasing the number of deputies at the fair from four to six.
Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said he felt the county should not be picking up the tab for the extra officers.
“So if this body decides to allow the tent, it would be an additional cost,” he said. “Selling beer to make more money for the fair board, but it will cost the taxpayers more to sell that beer at the fairgrounds.”
“If the revenue is going to the fair board, I do not believe the taxpayers of the county should be picking up the extra costs associated with the security at the fair,” Politi added.
“We may not need the six,” Cutting said. “We are going to meet with the town board to discuss what they are doing and what we need to respond to. I will also sit down with Captain Tibbits (New York State Police) and we will formulate a plan if this was to pass.”
Scozzafava then asked Cutting that if he, as an elected official, would support the beer tent.
“As an elected official, I can see issues and problems with it,” Cutting said.
Connell, who serves on the fair committee, said that he was concerned because the board had already filed the proper permits and rented the tent.
“We are now out over $800 because we thought that we could do this without coming before the board,” Connell said. “The fair board was looking for an opportunity to attract more people to the fair and bring in more revenues.”
Connell said that the fair, which currently has around 7,000 visitors each season, was seeking to up their annual attendance to 10,000, where they would be able to seek larger carnival vendors.
“The fair is run for the kids,” Connell said. “The kids run half of this fair. The thought behind this was it provides additional revenues. What we are really trying to do is get the fair up to a 10,000 people per season. We have a deep concern that we will not be able to have a carnival at the fair.”
Connell also said that the fair board’s decision on the beer tent was a way to seek revenues to keep costs down for fair patrons. Currently, admission is $10, which includes the carnival rides.
“People are going to be yelling at this fair board when the rates go up,” Connell said. “They are trying to keep this affordable, and that is why the alcohol issue came up. They really had no idea that there was going to be this kind of a controversy.”
Connell also said that he felt the board had worked too hard to be cast in a “negative light.
“I am concerned that there has been such a negative light on that fair board,” he said. “They put their heart and soul into this. They do not agree that this is going to have a negative impact.
Preston said that the matter was a difficult one.
“I have never had a problem making a decision and this one has caught me off guard,” Preston said. “I was all in favor of allowing a trial basis a week ago. After hearing from the sheriff, District Attorney, Mac MacDevitt of the Prevention Team and the Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth Commission, I am not so sure anymore.”
“I am having a tough time with this,” said Douglas, who voted in favor of the resolution.
“I did support this on the committee level because I am on the liquor license at the Knights of Columbus in Keeseville,” Morrow said. “I can't support this now.”
“I attend events in towns where alcohol is sold or allowed to be brought in,” Ferebee said. “I understand the DA, sheriff and everyones concern about children, but why does everyone have to change when the education should be coming from the parents.”
“I feel that the key component is that this is a family event,” Boisen said. “We would not find a beer tent at our schools during any of their events. They want to find revenue and I want to support the fair board, but this is not it.”
“It is a family event,” Malaney said. “It has Essex County's name all over it and I will not support this.”
Afterwards, Douglas said that the board had done its due diligence on the matter.
“You have put a lot of effort and research into this,” Douglas said. “Dan has been in the spotlight because he brought this forward. Everyone should be proud of the work they did.”