County alcohol levy discussed

Robert Smith

The Osage County Board of Commissioners on Monday tabled for two weeks its consideration of the question of whether to levy charges for beer and wine sales at establishments outside municipal boundaries.

County Treasurer Sally Hulse explained to commissioners they have the legal authority to levy a charge of up to $500 for beer sales and up to $1,000 for wine sales under the terms of the state’s new alcohol sales regime. The county can charge this to establishments located outside of municipalities, she said. When the commissioners appeared to be unable to come to a quick decision, Hulse asked them to delay their decision for two weeks, since she will be unable to attend their meeting Oct. 22.

In a phone call Tuesday, Hulse explained the charge is a tax.

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay said he supports levying the charges.

“I’m in favor of charging,” he said. “I think it (the sale of alcohol) requires extra security.”

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said he thinks establishments in unincorporated portions of Osage County that sell beer and wine should have to pay something, and that the charge should be in line with what businesses are paying inside the municipalities. McKinney framed the question in terms of fairness.

District 1 Commissioner Jerry Howerton said he thinks some rural establishments might go out of business if the commissioners were to charge the maximum.

“I think it’s more of a sin tax is what that is,” Paslay said. “I think they could just add it to the cost of operations.”

County Clerk Shelia Bellamy said there’s not a deadline to get the decision made.

McKinney expressed a desire to know exactly what the cities are charging.

Larry Eulert, city manager for Pawhuska, was present during the commissioners’ discussion and said the Pawhuska City Council has approved charging up to the maximum, but he clarified that the city charges considerably less than the maximum.

Howerton said he thinks making a good decision is the most important thing.

“I don’t think we’re in a hurry,” he said. “We need to make the right decision.”