On the lower Yukon River, the city council in Marshall wants to open a city-run alcohol store. On Wednesday, the council voted to begin the process of making it happen in their currently dry community.
The vote was unanimous. All Marshall City Council members voted “yes” to hold a special election for voters to cast ballots on whether to change the city’s local option status and allow it to open an alcohol store.
The community has already shown support for the change. In October, the city held this very vote. Most of those who cast ballots favored the store, with 47 in support and 32 in opposition. But the results were invalid because the city did not use the state-mandated language on the ballot.
The city now knows what it has to do. The first step is to collect a critical mass of signatures, totalling at least 35% of the number of registered voters who voted in the last election, and file a petition. Once the petition is certified, the city can proceed with scheduling the special election with the proper language on the ballot. The community has been dry for more than 30 years, but Marshall Mayor Jaylene Fitka says that has never stopped alcohol from entering the community.
“We’re having a hard time keeping our public safety department afloat," she said. "Our community was voted dry in 1986. One would assume that it’s a dry community, but it’s not stopping the alcohol. So instead of trying to battle it, we could legalize it, tax it, and use the revenue for the betterment of public safety.”
Mayor Fitka said that the city’s only law enforcement consists of one full-time village police officer, and one part-time officer.
"We need more than one VPO," Fitka said. "Our VPO is very busy. He oftentimes has to work alone. The backup VPO only responds to violent calls. We are hoping if we are to legalize and regulate sales, the revenue from the alcohol sales would let us fund more than one VPO in the community.”
The revenue would also help fund the Marshall volunteer Search and Rescue, which Mayor Fitka says relies on local donations.