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County hears new smoking law

by Tim Tedeschi - ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

Grant County Commissioners are seeking to find a compromise in a new proposed smoking ordinance after previous attempts fizzled out.

Commissioner Mark Bardsley introduced a revised ordinance at the regular meeting Monday that includes a prohibition on smoking within 8 feet of any entrance to a building designated as smoke-free.

Smoking would also be prohibited within 20 feet of outdoor restaurants and businesses, playgrounds, stadiums and multi-unit residential buildings like apartments and senior living facilities’ entrances and windows, according to the ordinance.

Bardsley noted that bars and private clubs restricted to those 18 and older that conform to state regulations would be permitted to continue to allow smoking in their establishments and e-cigarettes would be treated the same as traditional cigarettes in the proposed ordinance.

Private residences that are not licensed as childcare, adult day care or healthcare facilities and retail tobacco stores would also be exempt from the smoking ban, according to the ordinance.

A previous ordinance that would have banned smoking in bars and private places and 20 feet outside of building entrances died in July after Bardsley and Commissioner Ron Mowery elected not to second a motion made by President Mike Burton to vote on the matter.

Bardsley said the new proposal seeks to find a middle ground between those for and against further smoking bans, and various stakeholders advised on the ordinance.

“We have had input from the non-smoking side of the citizenry. We’ve had those that currently are having bars and private clubs that are under state statute that they have the right to do that if they file the exemptions,” he said. “It’s just a process of hearing from everybody and trying to do something that positively affects the community as well as preserves the rights of the individual.”

Mowery thanked Bardsley for his work to engage the community on the issue.

“I really appreciate what you’ve done in your research and your adjustments on that smoking ordinance,” he said. “It would appear that we might’ve rushed through some things, but I know you spent some time on it.”

According to the proposed ordinance, the Grant County Health Department would enforce the new restrictions during routine inspections or through complaint-driven inquiries.

Penalties for violating the ordinance range from a verbal and written warning for the first offense to fines of $1,500 for five or more violations within a year.

The health department could declare repeat offenders a public nuisance and seek preliminary or permanent injunctions or civil action against alleged offenders, the ordinance states.

Bardsley said the next step is for the health board, commissioners and other interested parties to review the ordinance and give feedback. He anticipated commissioners could vote on the ordinance as early as next month.

“We will be collecting more information from folks over the next couple of weeks and if we’re satisfied that we’ve done as best we can for compromise then we’ll take some action, maybe in the next meeting or so,” he said.

In other business, Grant County Health Officer William David Moore, M.D. told commissioners the health department was in the process of reviewing how neighboring counties evaluate septic system installers in order to develop new standards for the county.

Commissioners declined a portion of a septic ordinance at its Aug. 5 meeting that would have made certification through Indiana Onsite Wastewater Professionals Association (IOWPA) mandatory for installers.

Moore said a set of standards is necessary to prevent unqualified installers who are able to put up a bond and get insurance from installing septic systems without any training, testing or other precautions.

“There are other people who do evaluate their installers without IOWPA and I want to take a serious look at what they’re doing and see if we can with legitimacy do something like that,” Moore said. “They don’t have high level people that are evaluating them, they’re using other standards, but within the resources that we have reasonably available to us in Grant County I think we can do as good as they do in evaluating.”

Moore said the health board would develop and revise the standards before presenting them to commissioners for approval.