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Proactive policy on alcohol illustrates leadership

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Editorial: March 1, 2012

ISSUE: Alcohol at city-owned properties
OUR VIEW: Elizabethtown's policy is proactive, balanced

With increased interest in alcohol sales at city-owned property, the Elizabethtown City Council took up the issue, setting a new policy and taking a proactive approach to inevitable questions.

The city approved limited alcohol availability at Pritchard Community Center and authorized the Historic State Theater and Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau boards to set policies for those facilities.

Citing a need to preserve the family friendly atmosphere of the city’s parks, officials kept a longtime alcohol ban at American Legion and Freeman Lake parks. Tourism officials will weigh in on the issue before alcohol availability at the Elizabethtown Sports Park is determined.

As for the community center, the policy allows patrons to serve alcohol at private parties through a licensed caterer, but requirements such as renting the entire facility must be met. For example, it allows guests of a wedding reception to celebrate with alcohol but does not allow residents to be unwillingly exposed to intoxicated party-goers.

With licensing and liability measures worked in, the policy protects Elizabethtown taxpayers from covering damages caused by irresponsible drinkers, too. Under no circumstances should the city have a connection to serving or selling alcohol that would create such a risk.

It’s a balanced policy and a product of leadership and cooperation within the city administration and council. Working through such issues is what leaders in government do and it’s admirable.

Based on insight from a council working session, the administration drafted a proposal and presented it to the council. The policy was revised, city leaders each aired their concerns and, in the end, an agreeable policy about what city government should do was produced.

It was important to get to this point, though it might have been easy to leave the issue on the table, where it had been for two years.

Setting the new rules gives city leaders and employees guidance and educates those who are looking to rent city facilities. This should keep the council from being in a position to hear every exception request, robbing time and resources from more pressing issues.

It makes sense to have such a policy and it makes sense to have it in place now.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.