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Sexual offender rules set

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Three years after the issue was first raised by Alderperson Randy Morrissette II, the Hudson City Council has adopted an ordinance restricting where people convicted of sex crimes may reside.

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The ordinance also establishes 150-foot restricted zones around schools, parks, daycares, youth centers and other places where children congregate.

Anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime against a child or a violent sexual offense is prohibited from loitering near the restricted places or being on the premises.

Exceptions are allowed under certain circumstances.

The ordinance bars sex offenders from residing within 200 feet of the same prohibited places.

The ordinance was adopted on a unanimous voice vote at Monday night's City Council meeting. Alderperson Scot O'Malley, the chief critic of earlier drafts of a sex offender ordinance, was absent.

Mayor Dean Knudson declared the ordinance to be one of the best -- if not the best -- in the state concerning sex offenders.

"I think we could be a model" for other municipalities in establishing residency restrictions, he said.

"We spent a lot of time on this, probably 10 times as much as legislators who voted on a statewide law," Knudson noted.

He didn't say what bill concerning sex offenders state legislators had voted on recently.

Hudson's ordinance is much more narrowly tailored than ordinances in other Wisconsin cities that have resulted in sex offenders dropping out of sight, Knudson said.

Some cities have banned offenders from living within 1,500 or 2,000 feet of places where children congregate.

According to Community Development Director Dennis Darnold, 70 percent of Hudson's rental housing will still be available to sex offenders under the 200-foot residency restriction adopted by the council.

More than 51 percent of the rental housing north of I-94 will remain available, according to a document prepared by Darnold. South of the freeway, more than 82 percent of rental units will remain available, he said.

Darnold said 262 apartments north of I-94 lie outside of restricted areas, and 697 apartments south of the freeway are outside of the restricted zones. He counted apartments in just buildings with three or more of them.

The penalty for a sexual offender who violates the residency restriction will be a $250 forfeiture plus court costs for the first offense and a $500 forfeiture for each subsequent offense.

Each day that an offender resides in a restricted zone will constitute a separate violation.

The forfeiture for going onto restricted property without permission, or loitering near it, will be $1,000 for the first offense and $2,000 for each subsequent offense.

Morrissette had pushed for more stringent residency restrictions, but he voted to adopt the ordinance before the council.

Fireworks

Council members had an impassioned discussion about proposed changes to the city ordinance regulating the sale and use of fireworks.

The amended ordinance proposed by Police Chief Marty Jensen would have allowed the police department to shut down a fireworks dealer found to be selling illegal fireworks.

Alderpersons Morrissette and Alan Burchill were opposed to measure.

"I just think it's onerous at best," said Burchill. "I think there needs to be an appeals process. I think it's anti-business."

Morrissette said he wanted his tax dollars to be used for "going after real criminals" instead of "harassing" fireworks dealers.

A motion by Morrissette to table the proposed amendments, seconded by Burchill, failed on a 2-to-3 vote.

Alderperson Pam Brokaw noted that the police department meets with fireworks vendors every year to review what fireworks they can and can't sell.

"I don't think we would have gotten to this point if we didn't have a problem," said Alderperson Lori Bernard, chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Alderperson Lee Wyland, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said he gets phone calls every year from constituents upset about having illegal fireworks land on their property.

The council on a 4-1 vote approved the first reading of an amended fireworks ordinance. The provision allowing for the immediate closure of a business was removed from the proposed ordinance.

Other business

The City Council also:

  • Approved the sale of $3.26 million worth of general obligation promissory notes. The borrowed money will be used to pay for street projects and refinance existing debt.
  • Voted to proceed this year with the repaving of 11th Street from Coulee Road to Wisconsin Street. The water utility may replace some old main in conjunction with the project. Wastewater Department Director Jim Schreiber said the existing sewer mains can be re-lined for much less money than it would take to replace the mains.
  • Heard the announcement that Mike Wallace, the city's building inspector and assessor for 35 years, will be retiring in July.

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    Randy Hanson
    Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
    (715) 426-1066
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