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Council to take public comments on liquor ordinance amendment

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will take comments during a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed ordinance amendment that would let the chief of police decide whether an off-duty officer is required to be present at an event where intoxicating liquor is served.

The hearing will be at 7:02 p.m. in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W. The council meets Tuesday as Monday is the Presidents Day holiday. Current ordinance requires the holder of a temporary liquor license to pay for one off-duty city police officer to be present at the location at all times during the time that intoxicating liquor is dispensed. The ordinance also requires the license holder to pay for additional officers that may be required in the discretion of the police chief.

Under the amendment, the police chief would have the discretion to decide whether an officer must be present.

The amendment is being considered at the request of the Eagles Club. The Eagles applied for a temporary liquor license for a pool tournament next weekend in the City Auditorium. During the application process, the club became aware of license criteria of requiring police service at all times during the time liquor is being dispensed.

The Eagles say they cannot afford the 22 hours of service at $60 per hour to pay for an off-duty officer during the tournament.

The Eagles' temporary liquor license application was tabled while the council considered the ordinance amendment and the application is back on the agenda for consideration.

Also Tuesday, the council will receive the report of the Feb. 8 Finance Committee meeting. The committee is recommending the council adopt a $200,000 storm water capital budget for 2010. Adoption of the budget was recommended for better tracking and reporting purposes. The budget would consist of $100,000 for the storm water study and $100,000 for capital improvements.

Also, the committee is recommending the council approve a one-year agreement with Dovre Township in which the township will pay the city $33,181 to provide fire protection services in the southern part of the township, which is located just north of Willmar.

In other business, the council will receive the report of the Feb. 9 Public Works/Safety Committee meeting.

The committee is recommending the council direct City Attorney Rich Ronning to draft an amendment to current ordinance to allow the sale of alcohol in plastic bottles rather than requiring the alcohol to be dispensed into a plastic cup.

The amendment grew out of a City Council work session discussion on liquor ordinance changes. The amendment would benefit Willmar Baseball LLC, which requested it be allowed to serve 3.2 percent malt liquor in the original plastic bottle at Bill Taunton Stadium rather than pour the opened bottle into a plastic or paper container.

The committee is also recommending a change in the level of the first penalty for a server of a licensed liquor establishment who sells alcohol to an underage individual. Currently, the server is charged with a gross misdemeanor under state law, but often the charge is plea-bargained to a misdemeanor by the county attorney, according to the committee minutes.

The committee is recommending the server be charged under city ordinance as a misdemeanor and that the charge be processed by the city attorney.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150