Social Host Ordinance dies in board meeting

NEW ULM – A proposed Social Host Ordinance died at Tuesday’s Brown County board meeting.

A standing-room-only crowd of law enforcement, township supervisors, Brown County Probation Substance Abuse Coalition and Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth organization members debated the issue for more than 30 minutes before Commissioner Scott Windschitl made a motion to adopt the ordinance.

Because no board member seconded the motion, no vote on it was taken, effectively dealing it a death blow.

Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said he and County Attorney Bob Hinnenthal worked on the ordinance other Brown County cities already have.

“This pushes parties out in the county because some people allow it,” Hoffmann said about the ordinance the county doesn’t have. “This (ordinance) would give us a cause for action. (Misdemeanor) citations would go through the county attorney’s office,” Hoffmann said.

Hinnenthal said more than 100 Minnesota cities and one-fourth of the state’s counties adopted similar ordinances that give law enforcement a tool to deal with underage drinking.

“Land ownership is not the issue. It could happen at Lake Hanska Park,” Hinnenthal said. “It’s about aiding, knowing about, or people that should have known about underage people drinking and furnishing them alcohol.”

Commissioner Andy Lochner said he thought illegal drugs should be part of the ordinance.

“Some people allow underage kids to drink in the machine shed. Would we deal with that? (with a Social Host Ordinance). Absolutely,” said Brown County Chief Deputy Jason Seidl.

Commissioner Dennis Potter said the ordinance created lots of public concern about lost freedom at family events.

The sheriff disagreed.

“I feel this ordinance will help parents deal with parties. It will give them an out,” Hoffmann said.

Seidl said sometimes the correct thing to do is not the most popular thing to do.

Milford Township Supervisor Fred Juni said he opposed the ordinance unless it included prescription and illegal drugs.

“Let’s do it right. Let’s cover the bases,” Juni said. “This (ordinance) would turn me into a vigilante.”

Prairieville Township Board Supervisor Tom Hirsch said the township board discussed the ordinance and opposed it.

Richard Trebesch of Leavenworth Township said he finds beer cans in his farm fields near the Sleepy Eye Lake trail.

“…Call law enforcement,” Hinnenthal said. “To be charged takes an overt act (on your part).”

“This ordinance is about trying to reduce drug use. Alcohol is the top Brown County drug issue,” said Evonn Wescott of the Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition (USAC). “Fifty-five percent of youth drink alcohol at someone else’s home. People need to be accountable for drinking on other people’s property. Call law enforcement and act against it.”

“This is not a witch hunt on property owners,” said Donna Lambrecht of the USAC. “It’s something law enforcement needs to deal with out-of-control parties.”

Seidl said the sheriff’s department is concerned about all citizens, trying to save lives and prevent things from happening like drinking and driving.

“…People should not give alcohol to kids. It’s not right,” said Sheldon Rieke of Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth of Brown County.

In other action, commissioners approved:

Amending Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) AgBMP (Best Management Practices) for 2013 Brown County Water Planning Office loans and projects allocation from $308,000 to $537,032.57. John Knisely of the Brown County Water Planning Office said $147,082 is already reserved for agriculture waste management, $189,950 for conservation tillage and $13,500 for septic systems. Funds must be committed by Dec. 31, 2013.

Accepting the 2012 Year-End Budget Report (un-audited, cash basis) from County Administrator Charles Enter showing 100 percent budget year activity. Overall revenues of $28,005,724.99 were 101.9 percent of budget. Expenditures of $26,854.519.29 were 97.7 percent of budget.

Revenues over budget included Parents Forever program activity, recorder/abstractor service charges, road and bridge (including ditch system administration fees), family services, park and capital improvements (energy savings and rebates from the courthouse energy efficiency improvement project.

Enter said Lake Hanska camping fees accounted for much of the higher than budgeted park revenue, budgeted at $12,280, came in at $18,757.40.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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