Iowa Park Dir. of Economic Development Against City Going Wet

The group "Citizens to Keep Tax Dollars in Iowa Park" is circulating a petition, trying to collect enough signatures to put a measure on the May ballot to make Precinct 3 a wet precinct.

It's the only dry precinct in Wichita County, Iowa Park's Director of Economic Development, David Owen, said he hopes it stays that way.

Owen said he can't support something which goes against his strong Christian values, adding the tax benefits gained by allowing the sale of alcohol in Precinct 3 are far out-weighed by the negatives.

"First and foremost," said Owen, "I'm speaking individually here, and as the economic director that I am totally opposed to the petition."

Owen has been on the job since 2007.

Since then, he's been instrumental in bringing several new businesses to town; including S-5 Manufacturing, AEP, and McDonald's.

However, Owen said any law which would allow the sale of alcohol does more harm than good.

"No good comes from the consumption of alcohol," explained Owen, "It's a mind-altering substance."

Owen said because of his beliefs, he sees absolutely no benefit to alcohol.

He said if alcohol were allowed to be sold in Iowa Park, he believes it would increase the number of crimes committed in the City.

"In the overall grand scheme of things, there may not be a big surge in those types of things," said Owen, "but it only takes one or two families, five or six kids that are affected by alcohol."

Owen said if the measure passes in May, he will work to block any store from coming to town wanting to sell alcohol.

"If in fact my job requires me to be involved in bringing a liquor establishment, i will not do that," said Owen.

When asked if he would resign his position to accomplish that, he said, "Yes, absolutely."

Newly elected Mayor Dan Fears said while he appreciates and sympathizes with Owen's position, ultimately it's up to the voters to decide if alcohol sales should be allowed in Precinct 3.

"If it happens, it happens," said Fears, "I think whatever we do should be and will be for the betterment of Iowa Park."

Proponents of the measure say allowing alcohol sales would increase tax revenue, but both Owen and Fears are skeptical if that would be true.

"I don't know at this point in time whether that would promote a tremendous amount of growth or really any at all," said Fears.

While it remains to be seen whether allowing alcohol sales will help or hinder economic growth in Precinct 3, one thing is certain. The issue is sparking plenty of concern from both sides.

Reporter's notes by Ryan Robertson:

Over the course of interviewing the proponents and opponents to the measure, both sides referred to the sales tax revenue the City of Burkburnett gained after going wet.

According to the Texas Comptroller's website, sales tax revenue in 2008 (when Burk first went wet) was $1,171,803. The revenue increased to $1,259,946 in 2011.

A difference of just over $88,000.

However, because sales tax revenue isn't divided into sub-categories, the Comptroller's office said it's almost impossible to know how much of the increase is due to alcohol sales.

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