Board of Supervisors

Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

County looks into consumption ordinance

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

At their Feb. 5 meeting, the Jones Board of Supervisors discussed a proposal to adopt a county ordinance prohibiting the consumption of alcohol by a minor. The Board heard from John Klein, Jones County ranger, and Britt Smith, Monticello Police Chief. Both law enforcement officials are also involved with the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition.

Last year, the Board passed the Social Host ordinance, curbing an issue with supplying alcohol to minors. Smith said this new consumption ordinance would be an asset to Jones County law enforcement.

“It’s an additional tool to help us better combat the problem,” he said.

Smith said when interpreting “possession,” there is a lot of gray areas in state laws. He said a simple possession law has some loopholes. With a consumption ordinance, there can be evidence related to the charge.

“It’s another level to use if we find underage youth with alcohol in their possession,” Smith explained. “It’s the next step to curb underage drinking.”

The ordinance is the work of the Coalition, which has been busy researching and looking into the subject.

Klein said there are many times when possession cases are hard to try because law enforcements’ hands are tied.

“We have no authority to do more than what has already been done in a possession case,” said Klein.

He said when they see underage youth with alcohol, it takes so much manpower to investigate and get statements from all those involved or present that their valuable time has been spent on one issue.

“Our time is limited,” he said.

Smith offered that this new ordinance is not being suggested as a way to “short cut the system.

“We’re taxed and stretched to the limit with man power and resources,” he said. “This gives us one more resource to apply.”

Smith said other counties are passing similar ordinances; at some point he hopes the states will follow suit.

County Attorney Phil Parsons said the consumption ordinance is a good tool for Jones County law enforcement.

“The biggest problem is that the court system doesn’t believe that consumption is evidence of a possession,” Parsons explained. “But we need to hold youth accountable for their wrongs and not turn everything into an investigation.”

Supervisor Keith Dirks, who is also a member of the Coalition, commented that the organization has been doing great things to benefit the communities of Jones County.

“This has been a topic of discussion at town hall meetings in the past,” said Smith. “People are shocked we don’t have the ability to do anything on our end.”

Supervisor Joe Cruise said he doesn’t have anything against passing such an ordinance, but said he doesn’t want it to look as though the county is in the “law enforcement business.”

Smith interjected, “We enforce; you determine the acceptable behavior in Jones County.”

The Board of Supervisors will look at the first consideration of the consumption of alcohol by a minor ordinance at their next meeting, Feb. 12.

In other county business:

• The county heard from The Heritage Area Agency on Aging concerning approval of their contract with Senior Dining. The Board said this is good news for the county’s program.

• County Engineer Derek Snead reported on a minor accident near the County Shop in Anamosa early Tuesday morning, Feb. 5. Snead said a county plow and loader were heading east on Highway 64 when a vehicle clipped the plow. No injuries were reported. Snead said the county is not at fault.

• In securing right-of-way contracts for the D-65 road project, Snead said they have two landowners left on the list of 25 affected landowners.

• The Board approved the purchase of a new maintainer for the county Secondary Roads Department. Snead said they would be getting a used one in great working condition.

• The Board discussed and considered salaries and increases for union, non-union and elected officials, as well as recommendations from the Compensation Board.