New year will bring new law

The students of Castleton State College may have to rethink their weekend plans within the coming months because starting Jan. 1, the town of Castleton will be enforcing an Open Container policy.
This means students and town residents will no longer be allowed to possess an open container of alcoholic beverages on town property.
Although this change in policy has been brought to Select Board members on several occasions, it has always been voted down.
Until now.
Residents and town officials have seen an increase in disruptive actions from college students in the past year, with damaging consequences to front yards, sidewalks and town businesses.
“It ebbs and flows,” said Town Manager Charles Jacien of the behavioral patterns of students. “Everyone recognizes that this is a college town, but we all have responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is keeping the quality of life as stable as possible for both residents and students.”
Town resident Sarah Grey has lived on South Street for most of her adult life, and never before has she experienced such disrespect from students.
“I’ve never been bothered by the college kids … heck, I remember what it’s like to be a kid,” said Grey. “But last year was the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Grey was one of many town residents who awoke every weekend morning to find her front lawn painted with empty beer cans, smashed bottles, clothing and even vomit. And she is fed up.
“Something needs to be done,” she said.
Police Chief Bruce Sherwin believes this policy can help turn the recklessness around.
“This is a tool to help reach our goal of decreasing these actions,” Sherwin said. “We’ll use discretion and this won’t be a harassment campaign against students and their parties, but we will be cracking down to make a difference.”
Sherwin and his officers will be keeping a sharper eye on students walking through town in between parties, looking for that open can of Budweiser or a full red solo cup. Although they are not legally allowed to question an unidentified beverage, they will be making judgment calls on behavior and reactions of students walking around town.
And the consequence for that open bottle and rowdy behavior? A ticket accompanied by a $100 fine. A second-time offender will need to pay double and for a third offense, the fine escalates to a total of $1,000. It’s a huge payment for something that’s “easily avoided,” according to Sherwin.
“If you’re walking down Main Street with an unopened 30-rack of beer, we can’t do anything,” Sherwin explained. “But as soon as you pop that top, the rules change.”
Although town members are waiting for the change with urgent anticipation, students are not as thrilled.
“I’m 21 years old,” said Blake Wardwell. “I have the legal right to be carrying an open container of alcohol.” Wardwell feels that the new policy will only create more tension between Castleton citizens and college students. “We like our freedom, this won’t stop anything, it will just be another barrier we will overcome.”
But Castleton State College President David Wolk is hopeful about what the new year and the new policy has to bring, and he believes strongly that this fall semester has gone more smoothly than the previous year.  
“It makes sense to limit open container drinking,” said Wolk. “The vast majority of Castleton students are extremely respectful and courteous. They will continue to be good neighbors, as they should. I hope this trend will continue.”

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