WINONA (AP) -- Hoping to curtail loud parties and underage drinking in this college town, city officials are considering an ordinance to penalize residents caught with more than one keg of beer in their homes.
Under the proposal, which will go before the City Council in a few weeks, residents caught with more than one keg in their homes can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to $700 in fines and 90 days in jail.
About 9,000 students attend St. Mary's University and Winona State University.
"The idea is if you curb the party -- you curb the underage drinking, you curb the noise and you curb the litter," Mayor Jerry Miller said. "I realize kids go to school and they have parties, and we're not going to stop that -- we're just trying to control it."
Officials at both universities approached the police to get their help in keeping its students safe.
"The presidents of both colleges have come to me in the past few years saying, 'We need help. The kids are getting too drunk and getting injured and damaging property,"' Police Chief Frank Pomeroy said. "(They said) we need to get the emphasis on education and not on being a party town."
Modeled after similar ordinances in St. Cloud and Mankato, the one-keg proposal also comes partly in response to the Rental Housing Code passed in March. That Winona ordinance penalizes landlords for public nuisance arrests made on their property.
If police make arrests three times within one year, the landlord could lose his or her rental license. So landlords wanted help from the city to prevent big parties from getting out of hand.
"What we don't want to do is to penalize the average person," Miller said. "There are some people who have kegs in their house and don't cause any problems. If you had 10 kegs in your house and didn't make a lot of noise, the police would never have a reason to come to your house."
The proposal is already causing a stir among students.
Those determined to drink are considering block parties where each house would have one keg. Others say they'll just move the parties farther away from town, inching into the rural areas away from the watchful eye of the ordinance.
"I know there are ways around this -- there always are," Miller said. "You can have one keg in the house and two kegs waiting in a car ... I mean, I went to school too, you know."
John Spaeth, 21, a senior at Winona State University, lives at Pepsi House, which has the reputation of throwing the most parties off-campus. The house usually holds parties -- with five to seven kegs -- twice a week. He isn't too supportive of the proposed ordinance.
"Uh, that wouldn't be good," he said. "I think maybe it would cut down on big parties, but we'll just probably have ... parties instead where you fill up a garbage can with juice and hard alcohol."
Some students say the ordinance could be a deterrent to large noisy parties.
"It's going to stop people from having more parties, and especially large parties that will attract attention," said Andy Davis, 23, a sixth-year senior at Winona State.
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