Dawson adult hosts may be fined for underage drinking

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Elected officials pose with members of the Dawson County Family Connection after Thursday night’s Commissioners meeting in which a social host ordinance was approved. Left to right: Commissioner James Swafford, Sheriff Billy Carlisle, Board Chairman Mike Berg, ‘Be the Key’ Coordinator Tiffany Davis, Dawson County Family Connection Coordinator Nancy Stites, Commissioner Julie Nix, Commissioner Jimmy Hamby and Commissioner Sharon Fausett.

by Denise Ray

Effective immediately, Dawson County adults can be held accountable for hosting underage drinking in their home and on their property.

Penalties for a first offense can be up to $1,000.

In a 3-1 vote Thursday, July 2, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved the social hosting ordinance that will hold adults responsible for consumption of alcohol by minors under the legal drinking age of 21.

Voting in favor of the ordinance were Commissioners Julie Nix (District 4), Sharon Fausett (District 1), and James Swafford (District 2) with Jimmy Hamby (District 3) voting against it.

“We’re not holding the responsible parties accountable,” Hamby said. “The people who are responsible are the young people who are drinking. The parents are not responsible for everything.”

The ordinance takes effect immediately and violators can receive penalties including a fine of up to $1,000 for the first offense, a minimum fine of $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third.

Prior to the vote, commissioners held the second and final hearing on the issue listening to individuals advocating its passage, including Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.

“This ordinance will not take away anybody’s property rights, and it’s not giving us any more authority than we already have,” he said. “It’s asking adults not to allow their property to be used to host underage drinking parties.”

Nancy Stites, Family Connection coordinator, encouraged approval as well.  

“I’ve been up here before but I feel strongly about this,” she said.  “There are Dawson County parents that are making decisions regarding underage drinking that affect the health and well-being of children that are not their own. They’re doing it without the permission of those children’s parents.

Tiffany Davis, ‘Be the Key’ coordinator for Family Connection, also addressed the board.

“I feel this is going to be a very beneficial ordinance for Dawson County,” Davis said. “The ordinance is about holding adults liable if they make a damaging decision for another parent’s child, such as supplying a location for another’s teen to drink alcohol.”

Dawson is the second county in the state to pass a social hosting ordinance behind Cobb County.

Separately, the board held its first public hearing for the 2015 millage rate and property tax. Janis Edens addressed the board regarding her confusion regarding the appeal process and payment deadline. This was the first of three with the next hearings scheduled for July 9 and July 16 at the commissioner meetings in the Dawson County Government Center Assembly Room.

In other county business, the following items were voted upon unanimously:

Approval of the FY 2016 VAWA grant application (motion by Swafford, seconded by Nix). 

Approval of the March for Meals grant award (motion by Nix, seconded by Hamby).

Ratification of the 2015 ACCG Health Promotion & Wellness grant application (motion by Nix, seconded by Swafford).

Approval to move forward with public hearings on the 2015 Millage Rate and Property Tax (motion by Fausett, seconded by Nix).

Approval of the Atlanta Regional Commission Section 5307 grant funds (motion by Swafford, seconded by Fausett).

The board adjourned for executive session to discuss legal, property and personnel matters.

Read the story on dawsonadvertiser.com.

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.