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Area leaders consider social host

As Goodhue County considers countywide social host and seller/server ordinances, Chemical Health Initiative and local police chiefs encouraged area leaders to consider passing the ordinances in their jurisdictions as well.

Officials from Goodhue County, Prairie Island Tribal Community and local cities discussed the ordinances alongside upcoming construction projects and other mutual concerns at their annual meeting Tuesday.

The social host ordinance helps change the culture of allowing underage drinking, Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten said -- and Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander agreed.

"Too many parents are the buddy and not the parent," Sjolander said.

The social host ordinance would hold responsible hosts who "know or reasonably should know" that alcohol is being consumed by minors on their property, regardless of who provided the alcohol.

The seller/server ordinance would require all employees who serve or sell alcohol to go through training on legal obligations and liabilities in providing alcohol to underage or obviously intoxicated customers.

The ordinances only would apply to residences and establishments in rural areas outside city limits, but CHI members said they hope other cities will adopt the ordinances as well.

Sletten said when Red Wing considered its social host ordinance, there was some concern that it would "trap" parents who didn't know about parties.

But Sletten emphasized that officers in Red Wing don't write citations for social host violations at the scene. Instead, they send reports to the county attorney's office to determine whether a social host ordinance violation has occurred.

Red Wing already has both ordinances in place. Kenyon and Lake City have social host ordinances and Wanamingo has a seller/server ordinance.

Sjolander said the ordinance has been helpful for officers but hasn't had to be used often.

"It's just another tool in the toolbox," Sjolander said. "Just because we have it, doesn't mean we're always going to use it."

The meeting also was an opportunity to discuss upcoming construction and other public works issues facing most of the officials' areas.

Public Works Director Greg Isakson highlighted upcoming projects, including an interchange project in Cannon Falls and a new type of construction just north of Bellechester where, instead of replacing an entire road, crews will remove and replace just the top layer of the road.

Isakson also pointed out that plans and budgets for meeting federal requirements for retroreflectivity of signs - how much light they reflect back to drivers - need to be developed soon.

The group also briefly discussed economic development efforts in the county, including beefing up marketing efforts for the area

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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