Council approves first reading of smoking ban, new polling place

By Kendra Caruso | Aug 15, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso The Crosby Center, proposed as the city's new polling place.

Belfast — Council discussions became heated Aug. 6 during a debate about a smoking ban on city sidewalks.

Councilors, except Paul Dean, were in support of a smoking ban. He urged caution when making sweeping changes to people’s habits.

“I understand it’s a health issue but I am unwilling to take this on and I’m not going to,” Dean said. “... We’re creating a new way of doing things and I would just caution everyone to think about what we’re talking about and the group of people we are discussing.”

He apologized publicly for being "a closet smoker" but argued that the City Council is supposed to also represent those individuals who use, and businesses that sell, smoking products.

Councilor Mike Hurley said he is most concerned about people smoking near doorways and while standing close to visitors. City Councilor Eric Sanders echoed this by mentioning the lack of regulations around smoking cigarettes in public near children.

“Last night at the street party the urn was in use, while 10 feet away loads of kids were playing around a little pool by Kids Unplugged … and I said to myself, ‘you know, I don’t know that I want cigarette smoke that close to all these kids out there,’” Sanders said.

Currently, smoking in city parks is prohibited but there aren’t many signs posted to make people aware of the rule. City Manager Joe Slocum said he thinks more signs are needed to inform people about the law.

Slocum proposed a fine of $50 to be imposed upon the first two offenses and then a $250 fine for all following offenses.

Mayor Samantha Paradis recommended the Maine Tobacco HelpLine to anyone who wants to quit smoking.

The council was in agreement on a regulation that would require all dogs to be leashed on all city property, a proposition members think might not set well with some residents.

Hurley spoke at length about the dangers and lack of control he’s personally experienced from owners with unleashed dogs on city property. As he continued to speak, Paradis broke in.

“I’ll kindly remind all councilors that we have more than 36 items on the agenda and would respectfully limit our comments to what’s on …” the mayor began.

Hurley cut her off, saying “I am going to speak when I need to speak. You recognized me, I had something to say — thank you.”

Other regulation-related items were not discussed at length but a new rule that would have prohibited firearms on all city property, including sidewalks, has since been dropped. Only the state and federal governments are allowed to regulate firearms and the City Council has no authority over creating laws prohibiting concealed carry on any city property, Slocum said.

Slocum added regulations on what type of trash can be disposed of in city trash bins. He said he became alarmed at how many people were disposing of household trash in city bins and decided to clarify the law to limit bin use to small amounts of trash collected while eating or shopping in town.

The regulations drafted by Slocum came as a response to public complaints about dog walking and loitering on city property. He said he knows some residents might take the new regulations personally.

“We’re not trying to punish people. We’re just trying to promote safety and promote health,” Slocum said.

The City Council approved the first reading by a vote of 4-1, with Dean's as the sole vote in opposition.

In the same meeting, the City Council decided to use The Crosby Center as this year's polling place. During the November elections, councilors want to see how well the hall can accommodate a large number of people parking around, and congregating inside, the building.

Public comments on the new regulations can be mailed to Belfast City Hall, 131 Church St., Belfast, ME 04915, or made in person at the second reading during the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

 

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