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Committee backs public intoxication ordinance

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – An ordinance drafted to address what Ashwaubenon Department of Public Safety Chief Eric Dunning calls “the growing problem of public intoxication” received the backing Tuesday, May 1, from the village’s Public Works and Protection Committee.

“Talking to some members of the public, they thought this is an ordinance that we already have in place, which we don’t,” Dunning told the committee. “We’re looking at this as a tool.”

The proposed ordinance states, “No person in a public place shall conduct him or herself in such a manner as to become an intoxicated or incapacitated person and to create a public nuisance.”

Upon enactment of the ordinance, which will be up for final approval by the village board May 22, any person found in violation of the measure would be issued a citation and subject to a fine of not less than $200 together with costs.

A subsequent violation within a year would subject someone to a fine of not less than $400 together with costs.

Dunning noted the public safety department, which works Packers games and other special events, has the responsibility of being a “community caretaker” when coming in contact with individuals who are intoxicated to make sure they are properly cared for, whether finding a responsible person to care for them or transporting them to a medical facility.

“Many times we deal with people that have had too much to drink…but the next morning there’s no repercussion,” he said. “We feel that when we see repeat offenders, we need to adopt an ordinance, so the next morning when you wake up there’s a citation. It was an expensive night out on the town.”

Dunning said the proposed ordinance could apply to situations such as when intoxicated individuals are kicked out of a business and continue to re-enter, individuals call 911 requesting a ride because they are too intoxicated to walk and individuals are unable to care for themselves after having too much to drink.

He noted a citation would be issued when a person’s behavior has met the criteria outlined in the proposed village ordinance. But that behavior wouldn’t meet the standards of a state charge warranting jail such as for disorderly conduct or trespassing, or a Chapter 51 emergency alcohol hold.

The purpose for the ordinance is not to prohibit people from drinking or consuming alcohol, Dunning informed the committee, but rather to address the growing problem of people drinking to a level where they are not making rational decisions.

“This here’s a tool public safety would have in curbing this and issuing them a citation…,” he said. “(My) personal and professional experience in dealing with intoxicated people is they tend not to want to listen, and usually when you get the citation book out, or (if they are) going to jail, which is our last resort, (that) will get their attention.”

Dunning said the proposed ordinance is modeled after public intoxication ordinances in the cities of La Crosse and Menomonie, which both have universities in urban areas and host outdoor special events and festivals.

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