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Ordinance would assign responsibility when underage people drink

FD City Council sends social host language back for revision

-Submitted photo

Homeowners and other adults who allow underage people, especially college-age people, to drink alcohol could face new penalties under a proposal being considered by the Fort Dodge City Council.

The measure is known as a social host ordinance. The objective of it is to “make sure that adults are acting like adults,” according to Mickie Shubin, a grant coordinator with Community & Family Resources, an addiction treatment organization in Fort Dodge.

Police Chief Roger Porter said the ordinance would give officers an additional tool for dealing with locations that have been the site of multiple parties at which people under the legal age of 21 have been drinking.

“It gives us a little bit more leverage,” he told the City Council Monday.

Councilman Jeff Halter said the proposal could have the unintended consequence of pushing underage drinking out of houses in the city and into rural areas.

“My fear is that if they’re not drinking at a residence, where are they doing it instead?” he asked. “I would much rather know that they’re in a residential setting versus hiding at the dead end of a gravel road.”

Councilman Neven Conrad said he thinks the proposal is overly broad.

“It seems to cast a very wide net of liability on individuals or corporations,” he said. “I’m nervous that this is way too broad of a net.”

Conrad said that, as the measure is now written, a bride and groom could possibly be penalized for underage drinking at their wedding reception.

The council took no action on the proposal Monday. The city staff will make some changes to the proposal and present it to the council again at an unspecified time in the future.

The proposal states, “It is the duty of the social host of an event, gathering or party to take all reasonable steps to prevent alcoholic beverages from being possessed or consumed by underage persons on the premises.”

According to the proposal, it would be illegal for a host to “knowingly permit or allow underage persons to consume alcoholic beverages, or knowingly permit or allow underage persons to possess alcoholic beverages on the premises, whether or not the social host is present on the premises.”

The proposal would also make it illegal for someone to “host an event, gathering or party on premises when the person knows or reasonably should know that an underage person has consumed an alcoholic beverage, or possess an alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it, and the person fails to take reasonable steps prevent the possession or consumption by the underage person.”

“A social host who hosts such an event, gathering or party does not have to be present at the time the prohibited act occurs,” the proposal states.

A person convicted of a first offense would face a fine of $250. The fine for second and subsequent offenses would be $750.

Conrad said he believes the social host ordinance should be a statewide measure.

In 2014, a state social host law was enacted, but it only applies to underage drinking by those under 18. It does not apply to those aged 18, 19 and 20.

Shubin said the bill introduced in the state Legislature was revised to cover only those under 18 after opponents argued that it’s unfair that 18-year-olds can serve in the military, but can’t legally have a drink

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