Council moves ahead on social-host law

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On a 4-3 vote, the Albert Lea City Council voted Monday to move forward and accept public input regarding the proposed social host ordinance at its next meeting.

The ordinance, which has been somewhat controversial, would prohibit and establish penalties for any person hosting a gathering where alcohol is knowingly consumed by underage people.

The ordinance was compiled by the Albert Lea Police Department after 3rd Ward Councilor George Marin requested it earlier this spring. Marin has been consistent in his intent of bringing it to the council, though several of the other councilors have expressed worries.

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After he motioned Monday to move forward with a public hearing for Dec. 8, there were several seconds of silence, when it did not seem like another councilor would second the motion.

Councilor Vern Rasmussen, however, chimed in and said he would second the motion because he wanted to hear the public input on the issue.

After the public hearing, the City Council will make its own decision about whether to implement the ordinance.

When it came before a vote, councilors Al Brooks, John Severtson and Larry Baker voted against calling for a public hearing, while Marin, Rasmussen, Councilor Reid Olson and Mayor Randy Erdman voted in favor of the hearing.

The proposed ordinance states that it “intends to discourage underage possession and consumption of alcohol, even if done within the confines of a private residence, and intends to hold persons criminally responsible who host events or gatherings where persons under 21 years of age possess or consume alcohol regardless of whether the person hosting the event or gathering supplied the alcohol.”

It also outlines the findings related to underage drinking, the authority to enact an ordinance under Minnesota statutes, as well as exceptions that would apply to the ordinance. This includes legally-protected religious observances.

Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels and Lt. J.D. Carlson have said the ordinance would complement the existing laws and would be a good tool for officers to use. It would be another step in reducing underage drinking.

In other action, the City Council:

– Approved the zoning change for property south of Home Depot from an R-1 single family district to an interstate development district. The property is owned by John Chadwick.

The change in zoning makes the land consistent with the adjacent Flying J and Hartman properties, which are also interstate development districts.

– Accepted the agreements reached with Teamsters Local 320 representing the 911 dispatchers, police officers and detectives for the 2009 year.

The city and Teamsters agreed on one-year contracts that include a 2 percent cost of living adjustment effective Jan. 1.

– Voted to accept sewage from several septic haulers in the county.

The resolution applies to Freeborn County residents only. Residents outside of the county would have to be approved ahead of time by the city engineer.

The resolution also applies to residential sludge only.

The haulers have to abide by several rules to be able to dump the sludge.

– Called a public hearing on Nov. 24 for the proposed 2009 fee schedule.

– Approved a request by city staff to hold a winter carnival from 1 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Academy Park. For the carnival, Frank Hall Drive, from Third Street to Fourth Street, will be blocked off. There will be skating activities and sledding.

– Approved the request for the Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe processional at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12. starting at St. Theodore Catholic Church.

This is the fourth year in Albert Lea for the annual processional.