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Bangor board tackles ordinance changes

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Edward Kondracki

Former La Crosse Police Chief Edward Kondracki, left, gives a speech at Tuesday night’s Bangor Village Board meeting about a social hosting ordinance that would hold property owners accountable for providing space for the underage consumption of alcohol.

Former La Crosse Police Chief Edward Kondracki and his colleague Sue Lynch made an appearance at Tuesday night’s Bangor Village Board meeting to discuss the purpose of a social hosting ordinance the two have been encouraging La Crosse County communities to adopt.

The ordinance would hold persons accountable for providing a space for the under-aged consumption of alcohol. Kondracki said the goal of the ordinance is to give the police departments more tools for investigating and preventing underage drinking.

He said especially around prom time, some parents may not provide the alcohol to the minors, but will look the other way if they want to have it at their party.

Kondracki and Lynch are working on behalf of the Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition. La Crosse, Onalaska, Holmen and West Salem are among the communities that have adopted the ordinance.

At last month’s meeting, Bangor Police Chief Scott Alo expressed concerns that the village’s ordinance already forbids parents from providing alcohol to minors who are not their children or legal guardians.

After discussing the purpose of the ordinance with Kondracki, Alo recommended the village adopt the ordinance.

“It will give us a little bit more of a tool if a house is used,” he said.

Violators could face fines of $1,000 to $5,000 under the ordinance.

“There are legal consequences to hosting a party where alcohol is served,” Kondracki said. “The social hosting ordinance holds those who are responsible for providing the location for the underage consumption of alcohol.”

He reassured the board the purpose of the ordinance is not to discourage legal consumption of alcohol.

“We are not an anti-alcohol coalition,” he said. “This is a proactive effort.”

Kondracki admitted there is not really a way of measuring the effectiveness of the ordinance, but in his mind, if one life is saved, it is worth it.

Board member John McCue expressed concerns that the ordinance may take away an officer’s discretion in a situation.

“I, personally, think discretion should be up to the chief for the grey areas,” McCue said. “For example, first time may be a warning, depending on the situation.”

Alo explained that the officers always have discretion unless the violation would require to make a request.

“I can’t force an officer to write a ticket,” he said, adding that officers always have discretion.

After the hearing testimony from Kondracki, and on the recommendation of Alo, the board unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance.

Historic preservation ordinance

On the topic of another ordinance change, the board also approved, pending legal review, a historical preservation ordinance that could help bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant money to the village.

The ordinance is part of a larger movement to have Bangor designated as a certified local government by the state historical society.

Once certified, the village historical commission appointed by the board would be able to work with property owners to designate buildings as landmarks.

Under the ordinance, the historical commission would have the authority to legally designate a location with or without the permission of the owner. It would, however, be up to the village to enforce the designation and protection of landmarks.

This stipulation caught the attention of board member Jason Steinke, who said he didn’t like the idea of the village being legally bound to enforcing the ordinance.

Closer reading of the ordinance revealed the board would make the decision of whether to pursue legal action if the ordinance is violated.

The ordinance may prove to be beneficial for residents, as well. Property owners may be eligible for a tax break to cover up to 70 percent of costs.

However, property owners who participate would have to come to the historical commission any time they want to make changes to the outside of a building that has been designated a landmark.

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