New laws take effect, so note the changes

City council votes are taken and new rules debut. It happens so often it is easy to lose track of changes in area cities. Several new laws take effect this month in St. Joseph, and it’s important for residents to note what they are and how they will be affected by them.

One rule launching this month is the introduction of a street-lighting utility fee. Elected officials voted 3-2 to adopt the fee that will be collected citywide for street lighting. Collection is set to begin this month. The street-lighting utility fee is based on a per-unit system and is not as simple as paying for the light by one’s home, according to city officials.

Residents will see an increase of $18 per year, and businesses will see an increase of about $20 per year, St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens said last month.

Street lighting is generally included in the city’s property-tax levy, but in December 2012 officials voted to remove it and institute a street-light utility fee. By pulling the street-lighting expense from the levy, instead of residents and businesses paying taxes to the county for street lighting, they will pay the city directly every two months.

The city also adopted laws to help deter underage drinking in the community. They include a requirement for residents to apply for a permit to have kegs at gatherings, a social-host ordinance and a disruptive=intoxication ordinance. The vote, taken in January, was 4-1 with opposition to the social host ordinance due to potential court costs to uphold it.

Specifically, the social-host ordinance is a law that holds people criminally responsible for hosting events or gatherings where people under the age of 21 possess or consume alcohol regardless of whether the event’s host supplied the alcohol.

The disruptive-intoxication law states no person, while intoxicated, in a public place shall conduct himself or herself so as to be a danger to themselves or others and or engage in a public disruption.While all change is a transition, awareness of them can help with adjustment.

As time passes after council meetings and public hearings, it is easy to forget about what happened a few months ago. Often people can’t make it to council meetings and might not be able to sit down a read a newspaper and watch the rebroadcast of a city meeting. Well, it’s important to take the time to learn about changes that affect you in your community. Meeting minutes are available on the city’s website (, and copies of meeting minutes can be requested at city hall. Stay informed and abreast with the changes.

TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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