Dawson on Thursday became only the second county in the state to implement a social hosting ordinance, which holds adults accountable if they knowingly allow youth to hold drinking parties on their property.
In a 3-1 vote, with District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby in opposition, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved the measure first proposed by representatives with Family Connection.
Director Nancy Stites said the group has been looking at underage drinking as an issue in the community for several years.
"We have always targeted parents, because we believe they are the key to prevent underage drinking," said. "There are Dawson County parents that are making decisions about underage drinking that affect the health and wellbeing of children that are not their own, and they're doing it without the permission of those children's parents.
"And that's happening at social hosting parties."
While there have been discussions that some believe enforcing the ordinance would infringe on private property rights, no one spoke in opposition during either of the required public hearings.
Sheriff Billy Carlisle supports the ordinance.
"It's not taking away anybody's property rights from them. It's not giving us anymore authority to walk into someone's house...It's asking parents and adults not to allow your property to be used to hold underage drinking parties," he said.
The ordinance does not apply to parents that allow their own children to drink alcoholic beverages.
"State law says an adult can give their children alcohol in their own home, but you can't give it to someone else's kids," he said. "What this is doing is asking the adults not to provide alcohol to underage people or provide a location for them to come and have their underage drinking parties."
The ordinance also does not prevent adults from having parties and having alcoholic beverages at those parties.
"I think what we need to get out to the people of the county is that it's not an ordinance to prevent adults from having a party or gathering for adults at their home," Carlisle said. "It's also not saying that you can't have alcohol at your home. What we've run into is ... parties where adults have allowed teenagers to come to their house for alcohol parties, and there's really nothing we can do about it."
Tiffany Davis, coordinator for Family Connection's Be the Key Campaign, which focuses on underage drinking prevention, said adults need to held liable if they make a damaging decision for another parent's child.
"Adults should not be allowed to supply the location for teens that are not their own to drink alcohol. This is what the ordinance is all about. It's not about taking away property rights or giving law enforcement any more authority to enter one's home or even telling a parent how to parent their own child," she said.
Fines are up to $1,000 and 20 hours of community service for the first offense.