GARNER | Garner residents squashed a proposed smoking ban in its parks and recreation facilities at its City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The ban, which was similar to the ordinance currently being read by the Clear Lake City Council, was recommended by Garner’s Parks and Recreation Board, and supported by Kelly Hutcheson, grant coordinator for Hancock County Public Health Services.
Hutcheson told the council and residents in attendance that cigarette litter and secondhand smoke were becoming growing issues in the city, and noted cigarette filters take up to 10 years to disintegrate.
“My dad died from tobacco use,” she told the Globe Gazette following the meeting. “Anytime I can deter kids from starting that and secondhand smoke, I’m there.”
Those in attendance, however, strongly opposed any sort of ban. One noted that he should be allowed to smoke in parks, and would move away from children and other people bothered by his smoke. Another mentioned that cigarette litter is always going to be an issue and hard to combat, no matter if smoking is restricted.
“What makes a difference if it’s over the curb, or on the other side of it?” one resident said in terms of the litter.
Many who spoke against the ban said they did not smoke, but viewed it as an unnecessary change. That view was supported by council members, including George Smith.
“I haven’t heard it become an issue,” he said during the meeting.
Fellow council member Tim Schmidt agreed with Smith, adding residents have made their stance on the issue clear.
“We’ve never had any complaints,” Schmidt told the Globe Gazette after the meeting. “And I don’t believe in ordinances just to make ordinances.”
Hutcheson said she would continue trying to propose the ban at future meetings, adding high school students would attend and present why the smoking ban should be created.
City Administrator Randy Lansing said the proposal could appear at future meetings if concerns arise. He added that support for the ban in Clear Lake could stem from the fact it is more of a tourist destination.
Along with the smoking proposal discussion, council members unanimously approved an urban renewal plan, which includes commercial development along Highway 18 and a street apartment project along West Eighth Street. They also unanimously agreed to begin searching for a full-time assistant park and recreation director, to assist current Park and Recreation Director Sarah Swanson.