County board to hold public hearing on social host ordinance

Published 6:56 am Monday, December 28, 2009

One of Mower County’s New Years’ resolutions could be targeting people who host parties where minors consume alcohol.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the issue at 11 a.m. Tuesday to discuss whether the county should follow the city of Austin’s lead in enacting a social host ordinance.

A social host ordinance means a person who allows minors to drink and doesn’t take steps to stop it will be punished with a misdemeanor.

The commissioners will vote on the ordinance after the public hearing. Approving the ordinance at the Dec. 29 meeting would be beneficial, so the ordinance could be in place soon after the start of 2010, County attorney Kristen Nelsen said.

The Austin City Council unanimously passed a social host ordinance on Nov. 16.

Nelsen previously said a county ordinance would be a no-brainer if the city’s ordinance passed.

“It doesn’t make sense to have the law in the city but not the county. You could just cross the road (to have a party),” Nelsen said at a previous board meeting.

Nelsen — who is on an area drug task force that presented the idea to city council — told the board that the ordinance would give parents, teachers and law enforcement officials another tool in combating underage drinking.

Without a comparable state law, law enforcement officials are turning to counties and cities to enact social host ordinances. St. Paul passed a social host ordinance in October, and Albert Lea passed an ordinance in December 2008.