The effort to gather 40,000 signatures to put the wet dry issue before Benton County voters is going strong, according to "Keep Dollars in Benton County" spokesperson Marshall Ney.
"I think there's still a lot of willing signatories out there that want to sign the petition," Ney says. "People were enthusiastic about it before, but there just wasn't the people power out there to get the petitions signed and gather the signatures."
The group hired National Ballot Access to collect the signatures, and the firm doesn't come cheap. According to a financial report filed on April 13, "Keep Dollars in Benton County" has paid $219,513.11 to the firm so far. The report also shows Tom and Stueart Walton each donated
$80,000 to the group in March. The brothers already put in $30,000 each to kick off the petition drive.
"It would be a lot harder to gain the financial support without someone stepping up and writing checks of this size," Ney says. "It's a lot of money, and sure could we go out and raise the money, yes, but it would be a longer and more difficult process."
Dave Marrs lives near the Bentonville square, and he hopes the brothers' support will influence voters if the issue makes it to the ballot.
"i know that they want nothing but the best for downtown Bentonville, look what they've done for our city," he says. "We're growing like nowhere else in large part because of the Waltons, and so I sure hope people will look at that and say if they're supporting it I will as well."
Brittany Lee disagrees and thinks the men are making a mistake.
"I think it's the opposite of what Sam would have wanted, he was a very big family person and he would not have been for it at all," Lee says. "We're booming as it is. Bentonville has grown so much in six years and if you look at the last twenty years it's grown and its been without having alcohol in the county."
But Ney says Benton County residents already have plenty of access to alcohol at private clubs not to mention the short drive across county lines.
"You're not going to change the behaviors of all of those who are consuming alcohol in Benton county already,you're just going to export all of their dollars to other counties," he says. "Where do you want your tax revenue, where do you want your jobs? Where do you want your economic impact, if you want it here, then you want this county to be wet."