With relatively little discussion, the voted Thursday 5-to-1 in favor of the introduction of on underage drinkers found in possession of alcohol on private property. Councilman Jim Freda voted against the introduction of the ordinance.
The ordinance and various versions of it have been discussed by the council over the past year, with on the consequences that should be included in the ordinance. In the version the council introduced Thursday, fines would be imposed on those found guilty of underage drinking, and, under egregious circumstances, a judge could suspend a driver's license. An educational component is also included as a potential penalty.
Resident Carla Mecionis asked the council whether adults who are found to have hosted underage drinking at their private residences could still be penalized under the new ordinance. Borough Attorney Mark Madaio confirmed that the hosting laws would still apply even if the ordinance is enacted.
Councilman Ron Mondello, who also voted in favor of the ordinance, said the hosting laws, as they relate to the ordinance, need to be more thoroughly looked at before the ordinance is adopted. Mondello noted that under the ordinance, if alcohol was left alone in the home and the adult had knowledge of the possibility of an underage person using it, they could be in violation.
"I am not without some concerns," he said.
Creating penalties is not the only thing the borough should be doing to deter its youth from drinking, according to Councilman Andrew SanFilippo.
SanFilippo said he "was lucky enough to grow up in this town," and that he remembers more activities, such as Battle of the Bands, available for teenagers when he was young.
"There were things to do as a community that didn't necessarily circle around drinking," he said.
Referencing a comment Mayor Bob Collins made earlier in the meeting about the borough working to possibly develop a community center, SanFilippo said he would like to see such a center offer activities for the borough's youth, as well as other populations in the borough.
"I feel that the underage drinking in this town is starting to alarm me," he said. "I feel that we need to, as a group, we need to come up with something for the kids to do."
The council will be holding a public hearing on the ordinance before voting on its adoption at the May 17 meeting at 8 p.m. at the Kinnelon Municipal Building.