Should New Milford adopt an ordinance penalizing those who host house parties where underage drinking occurs and those minors drinking at parties in private homes?

Residents will have a chance on Monday to tell town officials whether they want such an ordinance added to the town code.

A hearing on a proposed underage drinking and hosting ordinance will begin Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Sarah Noble Intermediate School cafeteria, followed by a special Town Council meeting.

Also slated for Monday night is a hearing on revisions recommended by a council committee to the town's Code of Ethics. That hearing is slated to begin at 9 p.m., or immediately following the hearing and council meeting on the underage drinking and hosting ordinance.

Residents who attended the Nov. 22 Town Council meeting overwhelmingly supported adopting new regulations regarding underage drinking.

Joe Speranzo , the executive director of the Housatonic Shepaug branch of the United Way and the chairman of the local prevention council, New Milford Community Action Network, said NMCAN has been trying for more than a year to gather support for such an ordinance and get out the message "underage drinking is wrong and dangerous."

"It is time for our community to send the message that our kids are important and that we want to keep them safe and alive without drugs and alcohol," Mr. Speranzo said in a message to supporters last week.

If adopted, the ordinance would state that:

Minors (those under 21 years of age) shall not possess alcohol, open or unopened, on public or private property within the town unless in the presence of a parent, guardian or spouse 21 years or older.

A person shall not host an event on public or private property within the town at which alcohol is consumed by, or dispensed to, any minor not accompanied by a parent, guardian or non-minor spouse.

Town attorney Randy DiBella has said violations of the ordinance would be considered an infraction, not a crime. Violators would be liable for a $100 fine per event, the maximum fine a municipality could levy under current state law.

Proponents say the ordinance would fill a gap in the law regarding private parties. Existing law already prohibits minors from possessing alcohol in public places.

Some have expressed concern that such an ordinance would expand police powers and infringe on privacy rights.

"[The ordinance] doesn't dispense with normal police criminal procedures and constitutional protections," Mr. DiBella said.

Copies of the proposed changes to both ordinances are available to the public in the town clerk's office.