Businesses accountable for underage alcohol sales

By Jean The amendments to update the county's ordinance addressing the sale of liquor - specifically discouraging sales to minors - earned approval this week from county commissioners. "The real teeth of t...

By Jean Ruzicka

The amendments to update the county’s ordinance addressing the sale of liquor - specifically discouraging sales to minors - earned approval this week from county commissioners.
“The real teeth of this is holding business establishments responsible,” county attorney Don Dearstyne explained of server training. “We are seeing improvements because of the training.”
“This makes businesses accountable for their employees,” sheriff Cory Aukes said. “The goal is full compliance. It’s frustrating to see back-to-back failures. The seriousness (of the offense) is on the owners themselves.”
The additions essentially bring the ordinance in line with state law, with liquor establishment owners “accepting accountability” and training servers, Dearstyne explained.
The goal is not to punish, but to educate, he told commissioners.
The ordinance affects the unincorporated areas of Hubbard County, not cities. But Dearstyne said they plan to ask cities to adopt similar language in an ordinance.
Jurors on liquor-related court cases had questioned why the businesses selling the liquor were not being held accountable, Dear- styne said of a factor in drafting the new ordinance.
A 2010 Minnesota Student Survey found 21 percent of Park Rapids students who reported using alcohol in the past 30 days had purchased it from convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, bars or stores. This compares with a statewide 6.2 percent average.
Since 2012, Hubbard in Prevention has trained 196 Hubbard County owners and servers in Responsible Beverage Server Training.
RBST offers strategies to avoid illegally selling alcohol to minors or intoxicated patrons.
Compliance checks show the training to be effective, said Angela Graham, planning and implementation grant coordinator for Youth Alcohol Prevention.
In 2011, 53 percent of checked businesses passed, the numbers rose to 87 percent in 2012, 83 percent in 2013 and 91 percent in 2014.
Compliance checks encourage licensees to “police” themselves, she said, while motivating citizen participation and support.
But server training alone is not enough to reduce sales to underage youth or intoxicated patrons, Graham said. Internal compliance checks and “secret shopper” programs reinforce responsible beverage service.
“With this (ordinance), we will see improvement,” Dearstyne said, noting on- and off-sale liquor establishments are supportive of the new enforcement section.
Many hours and individuals were involved in drafting the ordinance changes, including Hubbard in Prevention.
Commissioner Matt Dotta questioned wording on the number of violations licensees may have (five within 24 months) before the liquor license is revoked.
The board agreed to seek a recommendation on whether those appealing administrative penalties should go before the Hubbard County Board or a designated representative.
Dotta indicated the county board should not serve as the appellate body.
The approved measure calls for rescinding three ordinances which address wine licensing (9), keg beer (16) and Sunday liquor (24) and adopting a single ordinance addressing licensing and regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Ordinance 42, which incorporates provisions of Minnesota Statute 340A, prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors, becomes effective April 1.
In other action, the board:
Received a preview demonstration of a user-friendly, public land survey (PLS) viewer to be accessed via the web. The PLS viewer was developed by Kevin Trappe, Environmental Services’ geographic information system (GIS) technician.
Currently, Trappe explained, PLS information is available on the web for viewing, but the means of accessing and using the data is cumbersome. “This provides ease of access.”
Trappe found the idea for the PLS viewer online and developed the web application for the county. The state has asked to see the app once it’s complete.
The PLS viewer will show sections, quarter sections and corners with information that can be linked to Certificate of Location.
It may be useful to the Department of Natural Resources, Trappe said.
The state has made available original land survey maps, developed from 1860 to 1870, to lend a historical perspective. This will also be available online.
Once a disclaimer as to the data’s accuracy is created and internal beta-testing is complete, the application will be released for public use.
“This new PLS viewer will be of great value to area surveyors, staff and the public by providing user-friendly access to our PLS information,” said Environmental Services officer Eric Buitenwerf.
“This looks like a great system,” board chair Dan Stacey commented.
“Good for use by the general public,” Cal Johannsen agreed.
Approved the purchase of a public safety software system for the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, to replace a 15-year-old, “problematic” TAC 10 system.
The system will be purchased through LETG at a county-wide total of $291,515 with an annual maintenance fee of $38,992.
The cost will be shared, with the sheriff’s department paying $240,781 and $32,035, respectively; Park Rapids Police Department, $44,867 and $6,155, and Akeley Police Department, $5,866 and $803, if they choose to utilize the system. (Nevis’ law enforcement officer is a sheriff’s deputy.)
A majority of the sheriff’s office expense will be funded with the existing E911 fund balance, Sheriff Cory Aukes told commissioners.
 Was formally introduced to Kay Rave, the county’s newly-hired finance director/auditor/ treasurer.
Approved purchasing services from ProWest of Walker for converting GIS data to parcel fabric mapping at a cost of $18,120, including staff training.
“Parcel fabric is the direction in which local government GIS is heading,” Buitenwerf advised the board. “It is a GIS data editing environment which allows multiple data layers that share a common line, point or boundary to be edited simultaneously, whereas the current editing mechanism requires that each data layer be edited individually ­– which takes greater time and increases the potential for error.”
 Set a letting of bid date of Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. for aggregate surfacing in northern Hubbard County, per Public Works.
 Clarified that the county has 51 paved roads, regarding imposing a countywide sales tax to fund road projects. Of the 525 miles of Hubbard County roadways, 200 miles are County Roads, 325 are County State Aid Highways.
Learned the county will rebid for liquid chloride and may request bids for magnesium chloride, county engineer Dave Olson-awski said.
 Approved purchase of service agreements with Pine Manor for detoxification services, a two-year contract at $300 per day, and with Upper Mississippi Health Center for outpatient mental health services.
Learned the Heartland Express audit revealed a need for an additional bus garage.
A review of facilities was requested.
Briefly discussed a Social Services fee schedule update for outpatient mental health and detoxification patients.
 Reviewed the county’s burial policy. Under state statute, the county must provide funds for those without resources.
Social Services director Daryl Bessler recommended increasing the amount from $1,450 to $1,500. The county “buries” about 24 people per year, about three-quarters of them in the files as clients. “We encourage those on Medical Assistance to have a burial account,” he told commissioners, who approved the request.
 Reviewed a year-to-year comparison of Social Services caseloads for December over the past 11 years.
The total number of cases increased from 1,399 in 2004 to 3,299 in 2014. The number of workers rose from eight to 12 with average caseload size increasing from 175 in ’04 to 275 last year.
“Income maintenance unit caseloads” from January to December were up from 2,800 to 3,299 in 2014.
 Introduced Social Services’ new hire, Beth Evans Grande, originally from Park Rapids. She served as an intern in Hubbard County in 2004, working in Anoka County the past five years.
 Reported letters on the solid waste assessment have been sent, explaining the increase for some businesses.
The letter reviews the current assessment as well as the amounts for 2015, and estimated costs for 2016 and 2017.
Jed Norlin, administrator and the letter’s author, states the department will work with businesses to explore options in reducing waste generated.
“There are many recycling options that Hubbard County will assist with free of charge, such as dumpster drop off and recycling pickup, worksite recycling evaluation, etc.,” Nordin states. “We want to work with you to reduce the amount of waste that gets landfilled as best we can.”
Approved a joint powers agreement with the Soil and Water Conservation District for completion of Wetland Conservation Act duties.
 Approved filling the part-time office assistant position for Extension.
 Approved an agreement with Erika Randall at $125 per month for law library services.
 Approved a four-acre pasture lease in Akeley for Jim Rech at $15 annually.
 Appointed Matt Dotta as a non-voting liaison to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

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