Commission to vote on social hosting rule

LaGRANGE – County commissioners continued their discussion of a proposed Social Hosting Ordinance which aims to reduce underage drinking within the county.

The proposed ordinance would clearly define fines within unincorporated Troup County for allowing groups of minors to drink on private property, and the commissioners expressed hopes that the ordinance would give the Troup County Sheriff’s Department another tool to fight underage drinking.

“It is a problem within the community, especially out in the unincorporated area where they’ve got farms; they’ve got cabins, and that kind of stuff,” said Commissioner Lewis Davis. “And the kids do (drink). … It is a bad thing. Alcohol is very accessible to the youth in the community, and I know it is. It’s not hard to get a six pack of beer.”

The state regulates maximum possible fines, so the ordinance would only define where in the approved spectrum fines for the offense within the county would fall, but by making it a local ordinance, county officials hope to make taking action against underage drinking easier for the sheriff’s department.

“There are some loopholes found in (the state law), and this Social Hosting (ordinance) where it can hold the parents accountable of underage drinking in the home is charged to hopefully close those loopholes and lessen the burden of proof on the deputies to give out the citations,” said Shannon Lawson, a project coordinator for Twin Cedars who has been instrumental in the ordinance’s progress. “… We are really looking to be a deterrent – a heavy deterrent – to parents.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the first violation would result in a $200 fine; the second violation would result in a $500 fine; the third violation would result in a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. The number of youth drinking would not affect the amount of the fine, for the adults who allow the underage drinking to occur on their property.

“Homes or establishments or cabins or anything that has a gathering that has youth that are under 21 years of age with adults present (would be included under the ordinance),” said County Manager Tod Tentler. “So, that is why it would be kind of hard for them to not be aware of it, if the adults are present.”

The ordinance would not apply to gatherings where no adults are present or would not be expected to have knowledge of the gathering. The ordinance would not affect anyone who is over 21 and wants to have a drink, but under the ordinance, adults will have a greater level of accountability for knowingly allowing underage drinking.

“If a youth under the age of 21 sneaks in there and gets some alcohol and nobody knows about it that’s one thing, but if the parent allows people (under 21) to have drinks, that’s another,” said Tentler. “That is what the Social Hosting Ordinance is about. The knowledge of the parents that allow the youth to have access to that alcohol.”

The commissioners also on Tuesay approved hires for budgeted positions within the Parks and Recreation Department, Tax and Tag Office and the Building, Planning and Zoning departments.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners plans to vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, March 21 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave.

 

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.