A process that has largely been devoid of public comment during months' worth of committee meetings exploded with comments during a Havre City Council meeting Monday. Council members, on the recommendation of both the Ordinance and Parks and Recreation committees, approved the first reading of an ordinance change to the section pertaining to alcohol in city parks at the April 5 meeting. The ordinance change allows alcohol in Pepin, Deaconess and Optimist parks with special permits. Alcohol is already allowed in the 6th Avenue Softball Complex at the men's slowpitch softball field south of town, but is banned in all other parks. The wording of "except by special use permit" allows for alcohol use in the other three parks. A permit that must be applied for two weeks prior to the intended date of use, must be obtained from the city. That permit has not been finalized or voted on by the full council, yet, but a draft form sets the following stipulations: • Events with 24 people or fewer: no permit fee. • Events with 25 to 49 people: $35 fee. • Events with 50 to 99 people: $50 fee and proof of liability insurance. • Events with 100 or more people: $75 fee, proof of liability insurance and the event must be catered. Areas where alcohol is served must be cordoned off, and petitions are to be filed with the police department. Regardless of group size, parties must follow all city and state laws regarding alcohol consumption, including age limits; keep alcohol use in a designated area; clean up the area of use; consume only beer or wine in non-Glass containers; and wrap up the event by 10 p.m. People must also sign liability waivers regardless of the party size, clearing the city of any responsibility. Before council members unanimously approved the second and final reading of the ordinance change, audience members spoke against the ordinance change. Allowing alcohol in parks casts a picture that Rip Steckel said he doesn't want. "My vision for this community is grander than that," he said. Kathy Woeppel told council members that she would like one place in Havre where alcohol is not allowed to take her grandchildren, adding that she picks up broken glass in Pepin Park while they play. "Alcohol has done no one any good," she said, after sharing that she was almost driven to suicide because of alcohol use in previous marriages. "I am adamantly against this," Michelle Herndon said. "It affects my children's playground." No one from the city contacted her, she said, even though her family lives across from one of the parks in question. Several in attendance asked about enforcement. "Because this is promoting drinking and driving," Kim Kaftan said. "We're not responsible for their drinking," council member Gerry Veis said. He stressed that people abuse alcohol, but that personal responsibility must come into play at some point. Parks and Re c reat i o n Committee Chairperson Bob Kaftan said that he is personally opposed to drinking, but that the permit system helps the city better regulate parks' use. "We considered all of these things carefully. This was not a shot from the hip ... ," he said. "We now have a system we didn't have before, and it's actually tighter now than it was before" because of the permit process. "We did try to limit this as much as possible," Ordinance Committee Chairperson Andrew Brekke said. In response to concerns, Pam Hillery suggested notifying residents in the vicinities of the parks before meetings to discuss the permit further, and Bob Kaul suggested posting dates and times when alcohol will be in certain parks so that people know.
Council clears alcohol in parks — with controversy
Published: Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
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