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An ounce of prevention

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By Katy Korkos

The DWI Planning Council, whose mission it is to prevent and reduce underage drinking and the incidence of “Driving While Intoxicated,” will be building on previous successes in the year to come. Those successes include running a compliance sweep where 14 out of 14 businesses refused to sell alcohol to minors, and a program where local alcohol vendors voluntarily agreed to remove deceptively packaged jello-shots from their shelves.With outreach programs in the areas of prevention, enforcement, screening and treatment, the advisory council approved its FY 2008/FY2009 budget when the group met on Tuesday in the police department conference room.The $134, 408 annual budget shows the bulk of spending in the area of prevention, at $54,967, and lesser amounts for law enforcement, screening, substance abuse treatment, compliance monitoring, coordination planning and alternative sentencing.Funding for the council’s work comes from three difference state agencies, said DWI program coordinator David Sims, and those in turn are funded by fines from DWI offenders and from alcohol excise taxes.“A major thrust is prevention,” Sims said. He said that prevention and education were a far more cost-effective investment for the public than law enforcement. “If we can make people think twice before they drink and drive,” Sims said, “we can save lives.”The DWI council’s budget goes to support DWI checkpoints and helps to support law enforcement in other ways as well, such as sending police officers to supplemental training and paying overtime for the compliance sweeps and checkpoints.In addition to reports from program committees, the council hosted a discussion of their improved by-laws and the council’s budget for the coming year.The group has formulated some amendments to their by-laws that include removing term limits for members and opening up the group to as many community members as have an interest in the group’s mission.“We need a broad group of supporters,” Sims said. “When we get somebody really good, we want to be able to keep them.” Although the DWI council’s composition was prescribed by the funding agencies, and includes representatives from law enforcement, Sims said the courts, schools and many other groups have been identified as having a stake in the DWI and underage drinking problem.Both the by-laws and the budget must still go to the county council for approval.