Council to consider social host ordinance
The Fairfield Public Safety and Transportation Committee will ask the city council to consider a Social Host Ordinance to curb underage drinking.
The committee met Monday and heard from Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey and Don Sanders of Jefferson County Alcohol Consumption Task Force told the committee about instances of adults supplying alcohol to underage children. It’s against Iowa law for an adult to give alcohol to a minor, but it’s difficult to enforce. Sanders said the officer has to actually see the adult give the minor alcohol to charge the adult.
Dissatisfied with the inadequacy of state law, Sanders urged the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors to pass a Social Host Ordinance, which would hold adults liable if they know minors are consuming alcohol on their property. Sanders said he worked on the ordinance for the better part of a year with the supervisors, who passed it in early September. Now he hopes to do the same thing with the city council.
“The intent of the ordinance is to drive down the amount of binge drinking and underage drinking in the area,” Sanders said. “When we did an assessment on the alcohol climate, we found two major sources of alcohol for youth. One was the retailers who sell alcohol to underage kids and the other, overwhelming source, is adults who provide it to them at parties.”
Sanders said he appreciates the support of the public safety and transportation committee, and perhaps the city council, in creating a unified governmental statement that the county has a problem with underage drinking and that it has to stop. He said he wasn’t aware of anyone in the county who had been charged under the new ordinance, but that was never the point of the ordinance. The point was to prevent binge and underage drinking, not just to punish them.
Harvey told the committee about the effect the county’s ordinance has had in such a short time. She said there was a property in the countryside that was known for hosting parties. When law enforcement informed the property owners they could be charged under the Social Host Ordinance, the problems ceased. In another instance, Harvey received complaints about a parent who was allowing underage kids to drink alcohol in their house. After the parent was informed of the new ordinance, law enforcement has not had any problems with the home.
Jessica Ledger-Kalen, chairwoman of the committee, said the committee recommends the council adopt the same ordinance the county passed in September.
Under the county’s ordinance, law enforcement has the ability to impose civil fines on adults hosting a gathering where alcohol is served to anyone under age 21. The first offense will be a fine of $750 and the second and all subsequent offenses will be a fine of $1,000.
The council will consider the ordinance at its next meeting, Dec. 16.