Truancy law paying off, SL council taps magistrate court

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Truants beware!

The Storm Lake city council amended its ordinance prohibiting truancy Monday night during its regular meeting so that cases of minors found guilty of truancy will be forwarded to the Magistrate Court rather than the Juvenile Court.

The amendment makes truancy, as other city ordinance violations, a simple misdemeanor. That is, a fine imposed by the judge not to exceed $500 or incarceration not to exceed 30 days.

The city council waived second and third reading to pass the amendment on first reading, which Director of Public Safety Mark Prosser said is fitting for this time of year.

"With only a couple of weeks left in the school year, this is prime truancy time," Prosser told the board. "This year we've only had 14 cases, down from 71 in 2002 and 47 last year."

Prosser explained to the board that since the ordinance was enacted, it has been an effective tool that local law enforcement and school administrators have used in concert to keep the city's children in school.

"Recently the juvenile court has notified us that they can no longer take the truancy cases due to administrative change with in their own organization," he said. "There also has been a change in philosophy on what cases they many and may not get involved in."

Prosser said the city attorney, Paul Havens, and the magistrate have advised him to recommend to the council to amend the ordinance so the magistrate court may clearly administer to the penalty section of the law.

"After review, and in consultation with Mr. Havens, I am requesting the council to amend the penalty section of the ordinance," Prosser said.

The new amendment also serves as a warning to parents who knowingly allow their minor children to violate any of the provisions of this section. They will also be guilty of a simple misdemeanor, and upon conviction, be punished by the same fine or imprisonment.

In other city actions:

* The city also held a public hearing for the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget amendment

* approved a change order on the water treatment plant improvements. The city was told that the plant should be finished following painting and clean up by July 4, well ahead of the fall schedule date. The council also was told that trees would be planted to make the area more visually pleasing

* approved a change order on 750,000 gallon elevated water storage tank repair project.

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