Following a public hearing on Feb. 2, the Phillips city council subsequently voted 5-1 in favor of amending the city's ordinance to extend the legal selling hours for beer in the city from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Previously, the city limited the sale of beer from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The recommendation to extend the limit was initially raised by alderman Bill Elliott, who told fellow council members that he would like to see the city's ordinance come in line with the hours allowed by all other area municipalities.
At the public hearing, one citizen questioned why this was being considered. A second citizen, Pastor Christian Markle, approached the city council at their Feb. 9 meeting, asking them to reconsider the proposed change.
“As a citizen, pastor, and law enforcement chaplain, I believe extending the hours to extend the hours to sell beer through midnight is a fundamental mistake for the morals, health and safety of our community,” Markle said, stating he believed increased access to alcohol would contribute to an increase in alcohol-related crime. He also stated he was concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest for some council members “whose employers stand to financially gain by this decision.”
Alderman Jerry Clark also spoke in opposition of the ordinance amendment, saying he believed the increased availability of alcohol in the community could affect crime rates, domestic issues, and overall alcohol abuse.
“As council members, I think we need to think about what's best for our community; not just what's best for sales, but what's best for the safety of our citizens,” he said, adding that he strongly opposed the extended hours.
Elliott said it would be difficult to prove that increased crime is connected to the hours of sale, and added the people who wish to buy alcohol after the legal hours in Phillips will likely simply drive to one of the neighboring communities that already has extended hours.
“It's a revenue stream that could stay in Phillips, and it's safer than [driving to another community],” he said, adding that it was confusing to have unique hours of sale in Phillips compared to surrounding towns.
Alderman Dick Heitkemper echoed Elliott's statement, saying this was an effort to equalize the playing field for businesses across the county, and said the Phillips Police Department is capable of handling any potential increase in crime.
Alderman John Klimowski said that while his employer will likely benefit from the increased hours of sale, he is making the decision on behalf of the citizens he represents, not his employer.
A motion to approve the amendment and extend the hours of sale to midnight was approved, with Clark casting the sole dissenting vote.
Process underway for removing dilapidated house
Phillips Chief of Police Michael Hauschild reported that the property owner of a house on Jackson Avenue has begun dismantling the residence, which has been described as dilapidated and an eyesore.
After what was apparently years of warnings from the Phillips Police Department, the city council decided in December to move forward with having the building removed by whatever means determined legally possible.
Hauschild reported that the property owner has since started working to take down the house, and informed the city council that he had extended the deadline by another 30 days, provided work continued. The deadline to have the structure removed is now mid March.
In a 2-4 vote, the council approved allowing the Phillips Public Library to bank $17,000 for a future capital improvement project at the library.
Library director Rebecca Puhl reported the library came in considerably under budget in 2020, with a significant reduction of services due to the pandemic. In light of the fact that the library is currently financially preparing for a future renovation project, Puhl requested the council authorize her to save that money for future library use.
A majority of council members voted in favor of allowing her to do so, with Heitkemper and alderwoman Laura Tomaszweski voting in opposition.
Heitkemper stated that while he was not against funding the library project, there are other city projects that he believes could immediately benefit from that unspent funding.