Christopher Hogg, Van Buren Township’s prosecuting attorney, presented a proposal to amend the township zoning ordinance on alcohol and minors to the VBT Public Safety Committee at its regular meeting on Nov. 7.
The committee didn’t have a quorum, so no votes could be taken, but Hogg did explain that 34th District Court Judge Brian Oakley brought to his attention that VBT’s fines are drastically low, compared to state laws for the same offense.
Hogg said the VBT ordinance calls for a $25 fine for first offense, $50 for second, and $100 for third offence.
The Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998, however, recommends not more than $100 for first offense, $200 for second, and $500 for third, along with provisions that a court may order a minor to participate in substance abuse prevention services or substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation.
Hogg said in reviewing the state statute, he finds there are other parts of the VBT ordinance that need attention.
He said the Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998 in section 436.1703 takes into account religious ceremonies and allows jail time after the second and third offenses if no rehabilitation is undertaken and the fines haven’t been paid.
Also, the state statute addresses the situation where a minor may consume large amounts of alcohol and friends may leave the minor in a drunken stupor and he dies, because they are afraid they will get in trouble if they help their friend. If the friends take the minor to the hospital they are not subject to citation, under that state statute, Hogg said.
There also is a provision for driver’s license suspension for minors who don’t comply with their fines/treatment orders or use fraudulent ID to purchase alcoholic liquor, in addition to a misdemeanor conviction.
Public Safety Committee chairwoman Diane Madigan asked if the fines go up, does the township get more and Hogg said yes VBT would capture a portion.
“The intent is not the revenue, but to get them not to do it,” said Trustee Phil Hart.
“The point is to make it more harsh … with a small effect on revenue,” Hogg said.
Committee member Reggie Miller asked if the township needed to tighten up the substance abuse programs and Hogg said the court has these programs in place.
“We’re adding teeth to it,” Hogg said, “With 30 days in jail if you fail to get treatment or don’t pay your fines.”
Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan said the penalty is subject to the judge, who has discretion.
“Do we have a problem with alcohol?” Trustee Hart asked.
Hogg thought for a minute and then answered, “Yes. I think there’s a problem. I do.”
Since there wasn’t a quorum, McClanahan suggested the proposal for changes to the ordinance be brought up at a future meeting for a recommendation to the township board. He said the committee members have copies of the state ordinance (provided by Madigan) and proposed township ordinance amendment (provided by McClanahan) to study.
In other business at the Nov. 7, hour-long, unofficial meeting, the committee:
• Heard Madigan say she wanted to go over the proposal for emergency sirens, but when secretary Jennifer Price said she wasn’t taking notes because it wasn’t an official meeting, Madigan said she would hold it for a regular meeting. Fire Chief Dan Besson said the VBT Downtown Development Authority was waiting for input from this committee on the sirens. McClanahan said he recommended determining the areas of most crucial need and phase in the sirens, which would minimize the financial need. Madigan said she talked to officials in Romulus and their first eight sirens came by putting by $20,000 one year at a time. Some of the Romulus sirens overlap Hannan Road into VBT, which will influence the placing of VBT sirens in that area;
• Heard Fire Chief Besson give a three-month report on fire incidents, including a barn fire at Riggs Park in October. A passerby saw smoke and the hay was on fire. Besson said they had to work through thick woods, but they did not lose the building. Also in October there was a gas leak on Leon Drive and evacuations after workers who were putting down a hardwood floor sawed through a gas line under the floor. He also reported on hiring and recruiting of fire fighters, noting nine people presently are on probationary status. He said they are in the promotional process for captain and lieutenant and two applied for captain and nine for lieutenant, with written tests set for January;
• Heard McClanahan give a report on the police department, noting three defendants in the Denton subdivision breaking and entering are now in federal court, two working on plea deals. A third one sold a stolen gun to another individual, he said. He also reported that the man who was found guilty of one count of armed robbery and two counts of felony firearms of the market at 9880 Haggerty Road on Feb. 2 will be sentenced soon;
• Heard Madigan ask McClanahan about Nixle alerts and how there weren’t any concerning the rollover on I-94 that shut down traffic. “If there’s a need, we’ll alert,” McClanahan said. “It’s not for just news … We’re not going to give you traffic alerts”; and
• Heard committee member Reggie Miller resign because she was elected to the township board and could no longer serve on the committee. Madigan thanked her for her service to the community.
Present at the Nov. 7 meeting were Madigan, Miller, and Trustee Hart. Olivia Bruce, P. Ramone Crowe, and Richard Wardwell were absent and excused and Raymond Bailey was absent. This is the fourth meeting in a row that Wardwell has said he would not attend or has not attended contributing to the ongoing problem of having a quorum to meet officially. When there is a meeting that does not have a quorum, it also is not recorded and not shown on cable for the public to see.
The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Dec. 5, in the township board meeting room.