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Vinton to Discuss 'Social Host' Ordinance

VINTON, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Vinton is your typical small Iowa town, with your typical small town flavor. However, if you ask high school students there and in other towns in Benton County, they'll let you in on a not so secret, secret.

Benton County is pretty high up there in the underage drinking, says high school student Logan Salger. My teacher has said that before.

It goes on a lot, and I think it's mainly cause of influences, says student Baylee Fennern.

The Area Substance Abuse Council says the numbers are alarming. Currently, Benton County ranks 16th out of Iowa's 99 counties when it comes to the number of teens using alcohol.

It is significantly higher of an average, says David Condry with ASAC.

The city of Vinton is set to discuss the passage of a social host ordinance on Thursday. Condry says it's a necessary step to help fight a growing problem in the county.

The social host ordinance basically says if a person is hosting underage people on anyone's property, and they knowingly allow them to consume alcohol or drugs, they can be hit a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses can cost as much as $1,000.

Condry says the county has made a move to curb the issue, passing a social host ordinance in 2012. But the ordinance only covers areas under the countys jurisdiction, and not towns like Vinton.

He says the city adopting the ordinance would close a loophole.

When the police show up, there's really not much they can do, there's nobody that can be held responsible.

He says it's all about assigning responsibility, changing adult mindsets, and cutting off access. Take the example of a house providing drugs to a community:

Would you rather the police sit outside and arrest the people coming out of the drug house, or would you rather the police shutting down the drug house? Condry asks.

Students say it may take a while, but the more people become aware of the law, and the more people are fined under the law, the more others will think twice.

It might open their eyes more, and they'll say it's not really smart and I'm not gonna do that anymore, Salger says.

The Vinton council will discuss the ordinance Thursday at city hall at 7. Currently, Shellsburg is the only town in Benton County with a social host ordinance. Condry says over the next few weeks they are traveling to Urbana, Van Horne and Belle Plaine to urge their councils to pass the ordinance as well.
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