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Wakefield Council decides to create alcohol use policy


January 14, 2020

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

AT MONDAY evening's Wakefield City Council meeting, City Attorney Ray O'Dea, left, makes a point while City Manager Rob Brown listens.


Wakefield - The Wakefield City Council voted Monday evening to create a policy that will provide guidelines regarding how alcohol may be consumed on city property.

The action came after strong encouragement from City Manager Rob Brown, City Attorney Ray O'Dea and Mayor Dale White.

In a written document to staff, Brown said the increased use of the newly remodeled community gym in the past year led to a report that alcohol had been served on the property last spring.

"In short, the way we allow alcohol in the building and on city property does create an exposure that could penetrate our governmental immunity," he wrote.

According to White, the city has never had "a real, true policy on alcohol."

He added, "It's time to address this, so that we don't have any problems in the future."

O'Dea acknowledged that alcohol has been served at selected city events, such as at the 4th of July picnic in Eddy Park, but he explained that the Fireworks Committee has been responsible about securing the proper permits and insurance and for addressing any related parameters.

Brown's report also noted other situations or sites, such as tournaments at the softball fields, wherein alcohol also has been allowed for a limited time under set terms.

Council officials agreed that it would be appropriate to address the issue more broadly with a city policy.

Brown suggested that the city address three basic questions: Do you want to allow alcohol on city property? Do you want to limit the locations? And do you want to limit the kind of alcohol that's served?

He quickly added that certain city locations "absolutely" should be off-limits, such as city offices, council chambers, the fire hall, the swimming beach, the city garage and other city work stations, etc.

Mayor Pro Tempore Amy Tarro said she was in favor of allowing alcohol at some venues. "I think we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot. You'll never rent out the pavilion. You'll never rent out the hall."

Council officials agreed that they could compromise on the fire hall location by allowing department members to request special permission from the council to serve alcohol during the hall's summer tournament.

In terms of an overall policy, O'Dea specifically recommended the necessity of applying for proper permitting and insurance to protect the city from liability.

In addition, he said it's important also to ask who will be responsible for managing any given scenario in which alcohol is allowed. "Who's going to be sure minors aren't drinking?" he asked. "Who will judge when someone has had enough to drink?"

Brown said he and O'Dea will work on drafting policy terms.

Beyond that, White also suggested that council members "sometime soon" take the matter further and work toward passing a related ordinance.

In other business, the council:

-Voted to discuss a potential audit of the city's electric meters with a related expert at a future council meeting.

-Learned from Brown that he is continuing to work with Gogebic Community College in Ironwood in hopes of securing a couple of students as interns to work in the city office and in relation to Eddy Park events, including for the campground.

-During public comments, heard a request from Neal Londo of Wakefield to open the Sunday Lake dam with the aim of lowering the lake level and thereby reducing the likelihood of spring flooding. Brown said the city has been acting on the advice of Coleman Engineering Company in Ironwood, but he said he will look into the matter.

-Heard Marcia Jurokovich of Wakefield ask about the status of "Coffee with Council." Brown said the monthly social sessions with the community will resume again in the spring.

-Learned from White that Brown was interviewed for a state periodical regarding the city's move to expand geographical information system mapping of utility data.

At the end of the meeting, the council entered a closed session to discuss a personnel evaluation.

The council's next regular meeting will be on Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m. The Planning Commission will meet today at 5:30 p.m.

Both sessions will be in the council room of the municipal building, and the public is welcome.

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