Fiscal Court continued its discussion Thursday on a countywide smoking ban, with Judge-Executive Ted Collins expanding the ban to include bars. A vote is set for May.
At the March 24 Fiscal Court meeting, Collins asked County Attorney Rick Sparks to draft an ordinance for a countywide smoking ban, with exceptions for private establishments and places that serve alcohol and only allow patrons 21 years of age and older.
Several were at Thursday’s work session to voice support for the ban, including representatives from the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society.
“What we’ve found in other places that have tackled this issue … is that exempting things like bars may lead to legal challenges, and oftentimes, the city or county loses,” Betsy Janes, of the American Lung Association, told the court.
“We think if you’re going to do (the ban), go ahead and do the whole thing right the first time. Save yourself the trouble and the money and the confusion, for folks in your county and for folks who have to enforce it.”
Janes, along with James Sharp from the American Cancer Society, spoke to Collins before Thursday’s meeting, and he told the court it was that conversation that convinced him to extend the ban to bars.
“A wise man can change his mind; a fool never does,” Collins said.
Magistrates Jill Robinson, Don Sturgeon and Huston Wells said they supported extending the ban to include bars, but Magistrate Phillip Kring said he liked the original ordinance better.
“I’ve been pushing for smoking bans for some time … but I think if you’re 21, you can make the decision whether you want to smoke (or) whether you want to go into a smoking establishment or not,” he told the court.
While he said he’d enforce the ban whether it included bars or not, Sparks also questioned Collins’ change of heart.
“Despite the opinions of others, I believe the original version that I tendered was both reasoned in its scope and in its purpose,” Sparks said. “It recognized the individual’s rights in the bar owner’s establishments, and it recognized other individuals who did not want to go to bars.”
The proposed ordinance cites a number of studies that found exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of cancers, heart disease and other ailments; that dividing businesses into smoking/non-smoking sections doesn’t eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke; and that businesses have shown “either no difference or a positive impact” after becoming smoke-free.
A few supporters, including Western Hills High School student Elizabeth Wood, referred to similar evidence in their urging of the court to pass the ordinance.
“By introducing a strong, carefully-worded ordinance, you send the message that our elected county Fiscal Court is courageous enough to enact regulations that defend our right, and right of each guest to our capital city, to breathe clean air,” Wood said.
Franklin County resident Betty Cowherd acknowledged some magistrates may be concerned with how smokers will view the ban, but she asked the court to think about the big picture.
“It’s not about the smokers – it’s about the smoke,” Cowherd said. “You all are elected officials … and you all are responsible for the health and safety of every citizen in this county.”
In addition to Janes and Sharp, Collins told The State Journal he heard from several other residents and health officials between the last meeting and Thursday who praised the smoking ban but asked that he not exempt bars from the ordinance.
There were two groups of people though he did not hear from.
“I thought tonight that I’d have 10, 15, 20 smokers or business owners saying, ‘Don’t do this,’ and that was not the case at all,” Collins said after the meeting.
“The only people I heard from were the people … (who said) ‘You’re close to doing it right, but you haven’t quite got it.”
Thursday was the first reading of the ordinance, so no action was taken. The court will vote on it at the next Fiscal Court meeting May 4.
In other action Thursday:
>The court voted 5-2 to pass an ordinance that requires residents with permanently-installed, above-ground pools at least 30 inches deep to build a wall or fence at least 48 inches tall surrounding the pool or yard, if they don’t have one already.
If the pool has a ladder or steps “capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access,” an additional fence is not needed, the ordinance says.
Those found in violation of the ordinance are subject to a fine not to exceed $250 for each day the violation continues.
Wells and Magistrate Lambert Moore voted against the ordinance. Wells said he supported the idea, but that he would’ve rather seen the depth at 36 inches. “Thirty inches … it’s not very deep,” he said in the meeting. “It’s quite a bit of an expense (to build a fence or barrier) for something that small.”
>The court voted unanimously without debate to enter into a lease with the Franklin County Fair Board that allows the board to rent Lakeview Park to put on the county fair.
Several officers of the Fair Board attended the work session, including President Donna Gay, who said she was “fine” with the new terms.
Under the new lease, which will replace the old one that expires this year, both the court and Fair Board will be responsible for clean-up after the fair, and the board will be required to give copies of vendors’ licenses, permits, and insurance information to the court.
The new lease also states that the board is responsible for “obtaining any and all permits necessary for the use of the property, which include, but are not limited to, land disturbance activities and erosion/sediment control and remediation.”
That section is in reference to an intermittent blue-line stream that runs through Lakeview Park, as indicated by a U.S. Geological Survey map.
The Fair Board initially objected to that addition, saying the map is outdated and the blue-line stream doesn’t exist.
>The court voted 6-1, with Moore voting no, to approve a resolution awarding energy consulting firm EMG an $85,000 contract for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.
The county’s grant writer, Ann Northcutt of the Community Development Department, told the court about $118,000 remains from the $125,000 grant the county was awarded a few years ago, and it has until August to use those funds. The $85,000 awarded to EMG comes from that grant money and will be used to determine how the county can become more energy efficient, Northcutt said.
>The court unanimously approved beer and liquor license fees for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, with Kring and Robinson saying they’d like to look into possibly fining businesses that don’t purchase their licenses by July 1.
>The court unanimously approved a lease with C. Michael Davenport Inc. to rent 2,000 square feet of space at 669 Chamberlin Ave., Suite B for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for $1,600 a month. The lease lasts from May 1 to Dec. 31, with an automatic 60-day renewal period starting Jan. 1.