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Penalties for retailers added to tobacco ordinance

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

St. Croix County has a new tool for keeping retailers and their employees from selling tobacco products to minors.

Last Thursday, the County Board amended the county ordinance banning tobacco sales to minors to include penalties for retailers and store clerks who knowingly violate the ordinance.

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The ordinance makes an individual who sells cigarettes or other tobacco products to someone under the age of 18 subject to a forfeiture of up to $500.

The actual amount of the fine for the first offense hasn't been established yet, according to Sheriff Dennis Hillstead. The ordinance sets the minimum forfeiture for the second violation within a year at not less than $200.

The ordinance also allows a court to suspend a retailer's license to sell tobacco products for up to three days for a first offense, three to 10 days for the third violation within a year, and 15 to 30 days for the fourth violation within a year.

Before it was amended, the tobacco ordinance allowed the county to cite minors who purchased cigarettes, but didn't include penalties for retailers and their employees.

Hillstead said that meant retailers who violated the ordinance had to be charged with a misdemeanor under the state law banning tobacco sales to minors.

By including penalties for retailers in the county ordinance, the county can issue violators a citation similar to a traffic ticket.

But Hillstead told county supervisors that education, rather than punishment, is the real thrust of the county's attempt to halt the sale of cigarettes to minors.

He said retailers aren't cited for the first violation or, in some cases, the second violation.

"We know that kids come in, they've got false IDs, and some of them look older. We're not interested in crucifying anybody on this," the sheriff said when asked later about the enforcement issue.

Hillstead said the main problem is with young store clerks who knowingly sell tobacco products to minors. "We want to educate them that they should not be doing that," he added.

The St. Croix County Department of Health and Human Services is the agency designated to enforce compliance with the ordinance. It does so in partnership with the Pierce/St. Croix Tobacco Free Coalition. The coalition periodically conducts investigations in which minors attempt to purchase tobacco products from St. Croix and Pierce County retailers.

Other action

In other action at its Sept. 15 meeting, the St. Croix County Board:

  • Adopted a resolution asking the state government to remove a requirement that local fire, law enforcement, public works and emergency medical service agencies have APCO 25 digital radios. The resolution says APCO 25 digital radios are much more expensive than comparable, adequate radios.

  • Agreed to use the National Incident Management System as the basis for preparation for, response to and recovery from natural or man-made disasters affecting St. Croix County. The system is said to establish standardized terminology, organizational structures, communications, action plans, command structures, personnel qualifications, planning, training and resource management for federal, state, local and tribal emergency agencies.

  • Voted to support efforts by the Hudson Area Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to deal with deer overpopulation. County Board Chairman Clarence "Buck" Malick said the committee is planning for a special hunt early in 2006.

  • Rezoned 160 acres in the town of St. Joseph owned by Geraldine Meyers from agricultural to ag/residential. Meyers plans to sell the property, located at 1472 50th Ave., for development.

  • Rezoned three acres in the town of Baldwin owned by Bruce and Joseph Achterhof from agricultural to ag/residential. The rezoning allows the Acterhofs' sister to build a single-family house on the property.

  • Rezoned a 20-acre parcel in the town of Erin Prairie from agricultural to ag/residential. The land is being added to the existing Gillen Rock Quarry.

  • Approved the floodplain overlay district and associated amendments to Chapter 17 (Zoning) of the St. Croix County Ordinances.

    Randy Hanson can be reached at rhanson@rivertowns.net

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