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Council advances sex offender draft ordinance

A proposed ordinance that bans people convicted of sex crimes again children from certain places in Hudson is expected to be ready for consideration by the City Council at its next meeting.

The council, after a lengthy discussion Monday night, instructed City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick to make some minor changes to the draft ordinance and have it ready for a first reading on May 4.

Final approval of the ordinance will come at the council's May 18 meeting, if things go according to plan.

The draft ordinance prohibits child sex offenders from residing within 250 feet of places where children are often present, such as schools, daycares, parks, recreational trails, athletic fields, youth centers and churches.

It also establishes 150-foot "control zones" around those places and prohibits child molesters from loitering within the zones.

The ordinance bans them from the actual premises except in special cases, and when they have written permission to be there.

Sex offenders could receive permission to attend church or a school program involving one of their children, for example.

The penalty for violating a control zone restriction would be a forfeiture of $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent violations.

Violating the residency restrictions could bring a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses. Each day an offender was in violation of a residency restriction would be considered a separate offense.

Much of the discussion Monday night was over how to define "youth centers."

The council appeared to ultimately arrive at the consensus that certain places should be listed in the ordinance as youth centers - such as The Phipps Center for the Arts, martial arts schools and dance studios.

Jodi Voegeli, a sex offender registration specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, gave a presentation arguing against broad residency restrictions at the start of the discussion.

Voegeli said the Department of Corrections likes to stay out of political battles, but has taken a stand against sex offender residency laws after seeing the effect they have.

The rate of noncompliance with the state's sexual offender registry law has tripled in some cities that have adopted strict residency ordinances, she said.

The city of Green Bay went from knowing where 90 percent of its sexual offenders live to not knowing where about half of them are, she said.

But Alderperson Lori Bernard said the less restrictive ordinance that Hudson is considering is close to the Department of Corrections' own guidelines on where child sex offenders should be allowed to reside.

"I think it comes down to, do we want to have an ordinance on the books?" Bernard said. She said she thought that the proposal that came out of the Public Safety Committee - and was altered some by Mayor Dean Knudson - was very good.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Lee Wyland drafted much of the original proposal. Bernard and Council President Randy Morrissette II are the other members of the committee.

Morrissette inquired whether there was support for expanding the areas in which convicted child sex offenders couldn't reside. Hearing no interest from other council members on making the ordinance more restrictive, he said the current proposal was acceptable to him.

Morrissette was the first council member to push for adoption of a sex offender residency ordinance.

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.

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