BERLIN – This week the Worcester County Board of Commissioners announced that they would be proposing state legislation disbanding the Worcester County Liquor Control Board (LCB) and replacing it with the Worcester County Department of Liquor Control.
John Phoebus, attorney for the LCB, said that while the county has yet to release the details of the propose bill, the LCB has some first blush concerns about structural independence and retention of experienced personnel.
“[The LCB is] able to operate outside the rules the counties have to follow,” he said pointing out that he was unsure the county, as an actor, could purchase liquor straight from the manufacturer as the LCB currently can. Phoebus also raised concern about the politicization of the LCB, something he said hasn’t before been an issue. “The board is less susceptible to politics than the county can be.”
According to their statement, the county would model their system after Montgomery County’s continuing to control liquor sales for both retail and wholesale customers and the profits they generate.
Their object, they said, was to preserve as many jobs as possible while maintaining both the service and profit levels experienced under the LCB. Their plan would be to restore bar, restaurant, and retail shopper confidence in the liquor operations while they eventually “may consider to eventually curtail the monopoly of wholesale liquor.”
Phoebus said that while the LCB did not have plans to lobby against the passage of the legislation, they hoped to be involved in the negotiations once the language of the bill is made public.
“We would hope the county retains as much of the experienced staff as possible,” he said. He also expressed concerns about the maintenance of contracts, pensions and other logistical and legal entailments with which disbanding the LCB might come.
While he also hasn’t seen the details of the proposal, state Sen. Jim Mathias said he expected there would be an amount of back and forth before an acceptable bill was passed.
“The citizens are looking for accountability and the private sector is looking to protect its bottom line as well,” he said. “We’re trying to find something agreeable to all involved.”