Wapakoneta city legislators have opted for an executive order instead of recommending passage of legislation regarding a smoking ban at city parks.
Members of two Wapakoneta City Council committees — Health and Safety and Parks and Recreation — decided this week an ordinance regarding a ban on smoking at all city parks is unnecessary as long as signs are posted telling people to refrain from the activity, Councilor-at-large Randy Fisher told the Wapakoneta Daily News on Wednesday.
“We recommended to administration that signs be posted discouraging smoking at the city parks and they will go up at all the city parks,” said Fisher, who chairs the Health and Safety Committee. “At this moment, Safety-Service Director Bill Rains is ordering signs for the baseball diamonds, entrances to the parks and the Wapakoneta WaterPark
“The example we used was there is no formal ordinance at the water park but signs are up prompting people to be courteous enough not to smoke and they do refrain from smoking in the park so maybe the signs will stop people out at the park,” he said. “If there are complaints after the signs go up then we will look at crafting an ordinance.”
Committee members met earlier in July and discussed smoking bans at certain parks as a pilot project as well as the option of creating designated areas for smoking at the parks. The parks discussed as part of the ban were Veterans Memorial Park, Belcher Park and the planned dog park as well as the Wapakoneta WaterPark.
Councilors quickly dismissed a city-wide smoking ban since it would ban smoking on city sidewalks and city streets.
They suggested soliciting comments from Police Chief Russ Hunlock, who informed the joint committees that enforcing an ordinance against smoking would be on the low end of his officers’ priority list.
Fisher, who accepted the effort to curb smoking with signage, still favors a ban at the parks.
“I am not in favor of designated areas for smoking, I want no smoking in the parks not only for public health but for public safety because of the potential for grass fires,” Fisher said. “We have been lucky during dry summers like last year, holding our breath that it hasn’t happened yet, but there is the possibility it could.
“I am not in favor of a ban on smoking on sidewalks or city streets,” he said.
In the future, Fisher said joint committee members will re-evaluate the executive order and how the affect the signs are having on curbing smoking. If the city continues to receive complaints from people at the parks, then they will revisit the possibility of an ordinance.
Fisher still anticipates further work on the smoking ordinance as councilors compare and coordinate city ordinances with state law.
“The entire city response to Ohio’s smoking ban needs to be revisited anyway to make sure our ordinances are not redundant and to make sure that we are following Ohio Revised Code,” Fisher said. “As we proceed through that process, we will see a lot of things come out of that — mainly how close a person can smoke to the Wapakoneta City Administration Building entrance, or how close a person can smoke to the entrance of the Wapakoneta WaterPark.
“We already do not permit smoking in city buildings and in city vehicles,” he said.