6/3/2010 9:23:00 AM Township officers learn more about proposed social host ordinance
BY ERIC VARGO Correspondent
Mary Sheehan, Chisago County's Health and Human Services Director, presented the county's proposed Social Host Ordinance to the Association of Township officers at the most recent meeting.
The ordinance, which is intended to be a legal tool to fight underage drinking, will hold the host of a social gathering criminally responsible if minors are found to have consumed alcohol. This is in response to the inability of law enforcement to press charges against any individual if there is no specific proof that they supplied the alcohol in question. The punishment for violation of the ordinance as proposed is up to $1,000 dollars and/or 90 days in jail.
Sheehan stated "I think we've gone down a bad road with that." regarding "a culture where parents take away the keys and [their children's] shoes and say to themselves If they're going to go drink anyway, I might as well provide a safe place to do it in".
According to Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter, the ordinance takes its legality from state statutes allowing counties to regulate public health threats. Kandiyohi County and several Minnesota cities have already adopted similar ordinances. County Commissioner Ben Montzka cited the county's meth production law as a successful equivalent already in place.
The incident which is said to have inspired the push for Social Host ordinances, occurred in Chaska where a man was walking home from a party where he and other minors had been consuming alcohol. Due to a combination of alcohol and icy conditions, he fell and was found dead the next morning.
In Chisago County, the ordinance was promoted by the Chisago Lakes chapter of SADD, working with Partnership for Youth & Families.
Lyle Johnson of Lent Township noted European social standards for alcohol as an example of how community values can prevent social alcohol abuse Reiter agreed, noting the success of anti-smoking campaigns based on peer pressure.
County Commissioner George McMahon and Reiter expressed interest in the state making a similar law, they said at the meeting.
In other news, Don Sherper informed the Township Association that the Minnesota Association of Towns and Townships would like the five Chisago townships with stand-alone insurance policies (Chisago Lake, Fish Lake, Lent, Rusheba, and Sunrise) to take on the MATaT umbrella policy. It is estimated that this will save money for the townships.
County Commissioner Lora Walker presented a resolution on behalf of the County Board honoring Eugene Greene of Franconia for his service and leadership. Greene has served Franconia since the 1970s, and during his time the first town hall was constructed, a land development process was created, and a fire department partnership arranged.
Greene replied to the resolution with a heartfelt "Thank you, very much."