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Renville County commissioners considering social host ordinance

OLIVIA -- Renville County is looking at adopting a social host ordinance to make it more difficult for youths to obtain alcohol.

Annie Tepfer, director of the Renville Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drugs, asked the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to consider adopting a social host ordinance. She proposed an ordinance modeled after that approved recently in Yellow Medicine County. She noted that a number of communities in the region, among them Fairfax, New London and Willmar, have also adopted their own social host ordinances.

The ordinance would make it a misdemeanor offense for an adult to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place. For a conviction, the county would have to show the offender reasonably should have known that the consumption of alcohol would take place.

The main goal of the ordinance is to discourage adults from allowing teenagers to drink. "Hopefully what will happen then is 'who will stick their necks out for teenagers if they can get in trouble,''' Tepfer said.

The ordinance would not prohibit parents from allowing their own children to have an alcoholic beverage in their home, according to County Attorney David Torgelson. As an example, he said it is and would remain legal for a parent to offer a child a glass of wine during a family event or as part of a religious observance. The commissioners indicated that they would set a date for public comment on the proposed ordinance before it is brought to a vote. The earliest that it could be enacted would be at the Feb. 8 meeting, according to information presented Tuesday.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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