April 8, 2009

Town Hall Meeting to discuss underage drinking

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Underage drinking is a big problem in McKenzie County and the McKenzie County Community Coalition (MC3) wants your help in resolving this problem.
On April 14, MC3 is sponsoring its 2nd Annual Town Hall Meeting in hopes of informing area residents of the problem behaviors associated with underage drinking.
“Our hope is that the meeting will bring awareness to parents and kids,” adds Marcia Hellandsaas, MC3 Committee Member and McKenzie County Extension agent. “We want parents to get involved and talk to their kids before they start seeing pressures to drink.”
The objective of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, community officials, community members and youth to voice their concerns and suggest ideas for preventing area youth from drinking.
“The culture must be informed and convinced of the problem behaviors,” says Dale Swenson, MC3 committee member. “Each community needs to become involved in its own way in curbing the results that cost young people their productive future and sometimes, their very lives.”
Last year’s First Annual Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the same group, provided area residents with insight into McKenzie County’s underage drinking problem from a panel of 11 public service officials. As a result, the Community Coalition began working to make positive changes within the community.
“I am a firm believer that if you are addressing problems in your community, the best person to talk to is your neighbor,” says Katie Paulson, MC3 committee member and Students Against Destructive Decisions state advisor. “Since last year’s Town Hall Meeting we have been able to make some positive changes and hopefully, we will be able to make even more changes after this year’s meeting.”
This year's panel will be comprised of Watford City Police Chief Daryl Vance, McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin, Watford City Fire Chief Ben Weltikol, McKenzie County Director of Social Services Amy Fast, Watford City Mayor Kent Pelton, and the other panel members from last year who have been invited back to present or provide a statement to be read during the meeting.
Presenters from MC3 will open the meeting with updates on coalition activities carried out as a direct result of last year's First Annual Town Hall Meeting and its immediate follow-up Mapping Out Successes for Our Children strategy event.  These activities include a Mentoring Program which moved from dream to training to actively mentoring; a publicity campaign "It's a Crime!" which used labeled water bottles to promote an anti-under-age drinking slogan; the organizing and hosting of candidate forums for the county commissioner race in Watford City and Alexander; and the financial support of a Compliance Check program for local retailers aimed at curbing the purchase of alcohol and tobacco by minors.
 “Attending the meeting will not commit you to anything,” says Paulson. “We are looking for anyone with ideas on how we can slow the problem of underage drinking. The point of the meeting is to hear from community members and get ideas.”
The 2nd Annual Town Hall Meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on April 14 with a free – build your own salad supper at the Watford City Civic Center.,