Council approves social host ordinance

1st offense is at least a $500 fine, community service

The Craig City Council gave final approval at its meeting Tuesday night to enacting a social host ordinance.

The ordinance's second reading passed by the same margin as its first, 4-3.

Mayor Don Jones and councilors Jennifer Riley and Joe Herod voted in opposition, while councilors Byron Willems, Ray Beck, Gene Bilodeau and Terry Carwile voted in favor.

All council members voted the same for both readings.

The social host ordinance will make it a crime for anyone to provide a place for people younger than 21 to consume alcohol.

The ordinance states that any person age 18 or older who violates the provision will be subject to at least a $500 fine on his or her first offense, at least $750 for the second and at least $999 for the third.

All offenders 18 and older also would be given 24 hours community service and could be sentenced to serve time in Moffat County Jail.

Any offenders younger than 18 would be subject to the same penalties but could not be sentenced to jail.

The ordinance does not apply to parents who allow their children to consume alcohol under their supervision, or to people who call 911 to report an underage drinker needs medical assistance provided they give their name and stay at the scene until emergency responders arrive.

Speaking against the ordinance, the mayor said he received several calls from residents at his work and at home, all of whom were opposed to passing a social host provision.

Jones added that he also called lawyers, and they said they weren't sure the ordinance was the best way to combat underage drinking.

All of the council members in dissent said they thought there were enough laws for underage drinking already.

Local resident Lynne Herring agreed.

"I think we do have a drinking problem in the community," she said. "But I don't think we can solve our underage drinking problem until we solve our adult drinking problem."

The question of minors consuming alcohol is a moral one, Herring said, and it shouldn't be used as an excuse to give law enforcement more authority to enter people's homes.

"Our Constitution is already as it is hanging by a thread," she said.

Councilor Byron Willems, who spoke in favor of the ordinance, said earlier in the meeting that several residents had the same concern about private property rights.

"This does not give law enforcement special authority," he said. "They still have to get a search warrant like any other time."

Willems also addressed the opinion there are enough laws already.

"People I've talked to who are against, they just believe we don't need any more rules," he said. "But they do believe the actual act of allowing someone who is underage to drink on their property is probably wrong."

If providing a place for minors to drink is wrong, and the city can do something about it and fight underage drinking at the same time, then Willems said he supports that effort.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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