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Council weighs options to curb smoking in parks
10/3/2012 9:19:55 AM

By Josh Johnson
Splash Staff Writer

Whether or not clearing the air at city parks was a task that should be enforced by law was the topic Tuesday of a Liberty Lake City Council workshop discussion.

A draft of an ordinance that would impose a $25 fine for smoking in city parks received a mixed response. The ordinance was forwarded for discussion by the finance committee in part to address concerns surrounding some of the more crowded events in the city, such as Friends of Pavillion Park concerts, where cigarette smoke could potentially waft amongst a somewhat captive audience, said Mayor Pro Tem Odin Langford. Langford added that a resolution already on the books only addresses specific areas of the park, such as near the playground and pavilion. In addition, the resolution proclaiming the "tobacco-free zones" is a rule as opposed to a law patrolled by the police department, Police Chief Brian Asmus said. 

"It would be great if we could control or regulate lots of behaviors, whether it's smoking at public parks or maybe only buying smaller soft drinks at McDonald's - there are lots of things that governments do to curb and try to force behaviors," Council Member Josh Beckett said. "Some of them I like, some of them I don't. On this particular issue, we may have the option or authority to pass a rule like this, but to me it feels like a stretch of the role of what our city government should be doing." 

Council Member Lori Olander said the ordinance seemed like it would be difficult to enforce. Police Chief Brian Asmus said while any ordinance that passes is technically enforceable, it does "become a matter of us setting our priorities as a department for enforcement, so patrolling Pavillion Park for smoking violators is probably not going to be on the top of our priority list for public safety issues in the community." 

Asmus suggested the Council consider putting something in place just for special events, when the second-hand smoke is more difficult to avoid. Council members instructed city staff to reshape the ordinance into a resolution or into something more geared toward highly populated events. City Administrator Katy Allen targeted the Nov. 6 meeting to consider the issue further. 

In other business: 

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Asmus said the new 45 mph signs increasing the speed limit along Country Vista Drive between Henry Road and Spokane Valley city limits are expected to be in place Monday. The Council approved the speed change at its Sept. 18 meeting. 

The City Council approved Mayor Steve Peterson's two appointments to the Planning Commission. Gary Green was approved as a voting member and Jared Von Tobel as an adjunct member. 

Allen said that while Tuesday's agenda was light, the Council's next meeting Oct. 16 would be meaty, including the mayor's budget presentation and a look at the capital facilities plan.