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May 20, 2009     The Florala News
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PAGE 2 THE FLORALA NEWS - WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2009 are opposed to gambling in the county. Earlier this year, the commission adopted a reso- lution asking the Legisla- ture to repeal the 1993 act that set forth the guidelines for charitable bingo in Cov- ington County. Both House Speaker Seth Hammett and State Senator Jimmy Holley said the legislation wouldn't pass. ConstitutionalAmend- ment 565, which in 1994 was approved by a statewide vote. allows charitable bin- ,go in the county and gives the commission with setting the rules and guidelines for charitable bingo. As the debate over elec- tronic gambling in the state heated up, commissioners said they were simply trying to eliminate confusion when they asked the first act to be repealed. Since that time. there have been at least three representatives of the gam- ing industry to approach the county about placing elec- tronic bingo machines in the county. After learning a represen- tative of the gaming indus- try met with a local char- ity to discuss them using electronic bingo machines instead of the traditional paper bingo cards and that the charity was exploring the proposal, the Covington Baptist Association took ac- tion and passed the resolu- tion presented to the com- mission. The CBA also sponsored a public meeting on the issue where the Governor's depu- ty legal advisor, Sonny Rea- gan explained if the Sweet Home Alabama legislation had passed it would repeal all language in the State of Alabama Constitution and the amendments that al- low charitable bingo in the state. Covington County Com- . mission Chairman Lynn Sasser has gone on record saying he personally oppos- es gambling but as chair- man of the commission, he must honor manmade law. He said the commission's only desire in asking that the regulation of charita- ble bingo in the county be left to the commission, was to protect the residents of the county and to keep the crime and problems that fol- low electronic slot machines out of the county. Under the current law, the commission regulates bingo, but it is the sheriff of the county who issues the permits. If the commission was given authority to not only regulate bingo but to issue permits for it, then the proceeds from the permits would belong to the county, not the sheriffs depart- ment. Obviously frustrated by the backlash over their de- sire to regulate and per- mit charitable bingo in the county, Sasser has gone on record as saying the commis- sion wouldn't get involved in the issue and things would remain the same. However, with the Sweet Home Ala- bama Coalition pushing for a statewide vote on the issue and the fact that gaming in- dustry representatives have approached charities and municipalities within the county, it doesn't appear as if this is an issue that is go- ing way. The debate over bingo is not new to the City of Flora, la either. When the Tri-Cit- ies Chamber of Commerce wanted to begin having a bingo night at the old Ar- mory, the debate over the msue became heated. Al- though the bingo proceeds are being used to help beau- tify the downtown area, the subject of whether gambling should be allowed, even if for charity, caused an uproar. The chamber obtained the necessary permits to host bingo and many resi- dents enjoy getting together to play bingo. Williamson confirmed that he met with represen- tatives wanting to. bring electronic bingo to the city, he hesitated on giving more specifics. When asked if the city had the authority to allow electronic bingo inside the city limits, Williamson said the council is in the process of doing research on the matter and hopes to be able to answer any questions re- lated to the issue. Williamson also acknowl- edged he expe.cts a heated debate on the issue but said he welcomes the opportu- nity to hear what the public thinks and encouraged resi- dents who had questions on the issue to contact their council member. "I want residents to feel free to voice any questions or concerns they may have regarding anything going on in the city," said Wil- liamson. While residents are encouraged to contact their representatives with any questions, the decisions on whether or not to hold a public hearing has not been decided. Williamson was asked the following questions and answers follow. Question: What would you tell those who oppose electronic bingo because they say it increases the crime rate and brings in the wrong type of people? Answer: That is all part of the research currently be- ing done by the city council. As with any issue there will be pros and cons from both sides but at the end of the day Williamson said he feels the city council will take the action they feel is in the best interest, of the city. Question: How do you feel about electronic bingo from a Christian standpoint? Answer: As a Christian, I have the choice to decide whether to participate or not. I also have the right to completely research a mat- ter and allow my Christian influences to interpret the morality of an issue. Question: Is gambling a sin? Answer: I find nowhere in the Bible that states it, as a matter of fact, the disciples cast lots to determine the replacement for Judas Is- cariot. Question: Could the over- indulgence in such be sin- ful? Answer: Absolutely, as is true with any number of overmdulgences. Question: Are there big sins and little sins? Is sell- ing raffle tickets for a quilt a small, sinful infraction. Yet, electronic bingo major? Answer: Biblically, if one uses this analogy, either both practices are accept- able or neither is. These are questions that will likely require a personal decision, a decision I'm prepared to FROM FRONT make. Williamson said it is also important that residents realize the Council is not trying to appear as if they are doing anything behind closed doors or without pub- lic input. Whether or not electronic bingo comes to the City of Florala will be determined by a number of things and before a decision can be made whether or not to al- low an industry to bring elec- tronic bingo into the city the council must first find out if it is something that can be legally done and what the consequences would be to the city, both negative and positive, stated Williamson. However, he contends the only fair way to make such a decision is to have com- munication between the city and the residents and to keep those lines of commu- nication open. Once the debates are over and the research complete, Williamson and the city council will ultimately do what they feel is best for the City of Flor-ala and the peo- ple who call FloraIa home. Concluding, Williamson pointed out that all he did was meet with the represen- tative and discuss the possi- bility of bringing electronic bingo to, the city, it is by no means a done deal. S, opportunity pass by, on .May 11 Pridgen proposed using the county's preservation fund to help obtain the prop- erty. According to Walton County Finance Director William Imfeld, these are funds paid by developers to offset vegetative destruc- tion by providing for new planting of native vegeta- tion and for the purchase of open space for preservation. The amount of the county's preservation fund came to $676,766 and the account had never been used prior to Pridgen's requegt. Pridgen pledged that the county would continue to seek grant funds for the purchase and would reim- burse the amount to the preservation account when those funds were received. His proposal Was approved unanimously. This left approximately $18,000 needed to fund the property price plus other costs associated with the purchase. On May 18, Blackshear reported that the Northwest Florida Wa- ter Management District had committed t6 provide an additional $18,000. "Our ultimate goal is to replenish the preservation fund," she noted, explain- ing that a new application would be submitted to the Florida Forever Program in connection with the Natu- ral Bridge property, in the spring. Walton County's plans for the Natural Bridge site include wildlife preserva- tion and low-impact recre- ation, with the addition of a small park, a designated swimming area, and an out- door classroom. Visitor op- portunities are to include a walking trail and separate equestrian trails, interpre- tive signage, a canoe launch, portable restrooms, a picnic area, a small playground, walkovers and wildlife ob- servation platforms. Restoration work is also FROM FRONT envisioned for the prop- erty tO restore and replant disturbed areas with na- tive vegetation, remove non-native plant species, improve water quality and reduce sedimentation from unpaved road erosion and other sources, with the goal of bringing the spring back to its former health and beauty. On Tuesday following a two-day trial, a Coving- ton County jury convicted for committing sex crimes Robert Paul Wooten. 45, against a 14- year-old boy. Internet + Unlimited Nationwide' Calling' " . Get what you need - plus an extra $50 to spend! 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E arly Tejm~nation: Early terrain at~on fee ol S99 aDolres NOt all serv*ces available m all areas.Addlt~onal terms and condr~ons a[lo, 2009 FairPoiot CommunlcatLons inc. All ngnts reserveo tr /! i' After deliberating for ,less than an' hour, the jury found Wooten guilty of Enticing a Child to Enter a House for Immoral Purposes and Sex- ual Abuse II. The convictions arose out of a 2007 incident. The Congratulate Your Graduate! Graduate Photo Here Your Message Here SAMPLE SIZE Publication date: Wed., May 27 Cost: $12.00 Deadline is charges were initiated when the victim's parents contact- ed the Covington County Sheriffs Department after the boy reported the crime the same day it occurred. Wooten was indicted in De- cember, 2007, after an in- vestigation conducted by the Covington County Sheriffs Department and the Cov- ington County Department of Human Resources. Assistant District At- torney Grace Jeter, who prosecuted the case for the State, said that the victim's prompt reporting of the crime was essential to the conviction. "It is always dif- ficult for anyone of any age to report a crime such as this that is so personal in na- ture. As I've stated before, it is so important that parents and care-givers continue to teach their children the importance of good touches and bad touches at an early age and the importance of telling when it happens." District Attorney Greg Gambril echoed Jeter's sen- timent. "This case is a good example of the right result coming from a bad situation. It was hard for the victim to report this crime, to share it with police and DHR and, ultimately, a jury, but, at the same time, the victim has now helped us ensure that this perpetrator will be off the streets for a long time and that, when he gets out, the public will know about him." Wooten. will be sentenced June 17, 2009, by Judge Charles A. "Lex" Short. He is being held without bond pending the sentencing hearing. Wooten could re- ceive sentences of up to 10 Tuesday, May 26 years imprisonment for the Ii 4"3'0 pm Enticing a Child conviction I 1 " and up. to 1 year imprison- .[! _ _ ) " mei t for the SexualAbuse II . conviction. His convictions 1 also subject him to the Sex t] J Offender Notification Act. ! |, ,ll,,i, , ,, ,