Townsend voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on wine sales in grocery stores as part of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The total votes were 180 for the referendum and 59 against, a 3-1 margin.

Getting the referendum on the ballot has been a nearly three-year process for the city. In December 2015, then-city Mayor Michael Talley’s motion to hold a referendum on the issue failed after no one seconded the motion.

The following year, city commissioners learned Townsend didn’t meet the population threshold that state law required. In September 2016, city commissioners voted to ask City Recorder Danny Williamson to work with the Tennessee Municipal League to draft language that could be presented to local representatives to change the law.

Williamson told The Daily Times on Tuesday they were able to get a private act into the hands of the state Legislature earlier this year, and got a favorable vote in the spring.

“Our local legislature drew it up,” Williamson said. “(State Rep.) Jerome Moon kind of helped put it together to get it on in there at that time. (State Rep.) Bob Ramsey helped out with it and (state Sen.) Art Swann.”

Williamson said former Blount County Commissioner Grady Caskey, who represented Townsend on the commission, also was instrumental.

When the state Legislature passed it in the spring, that opened the way for Townsend to hold the referendum, Williamson said, but not before it garnered a certain number of signatures on a petition. He said the required number was a percentage of Townsend voters who voted in the last presidential election.

It wasn’t much, he said, estimating that number at around a dozen.

Before the results were in Tuesday, Townsend Mayor Ron Palewski told The Daily Times he was in favor of the referendum passing.

“It definitely would mean more sales tax for the city,” Palewski said.

Crime and courts reporter for The Daily Times.

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