Kenai to debate smoking ban law

Posted: Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Running nip and tuck with its sister city upriver, Kenai is slated to introduce a ban on smoking in all public places at the city council meeting tonight.

Soldotna attempted to introduce similar legislation last week, but last-minute revisions by the city attorney prompted Mayor Peter Micciche to ask that the ordinance introduction be postponed.

In Kenai, Ordinance 2390-2009 would amend the city code to eliminate secondhand tobacco smoke exposure in places of employment and other public places.

If introduced tonight, the ordinance would be scheduled for a public hearing and a vote at the council's March 18 meeting.

Kenai code already prohibits cigarette smoking in restaurants and the new law would expand that ban to include taverns, private clubs and all places of employment.

The mere mention of a draft version of the ordinance in the Kenai City Council's meeting agenda packet two weeks ago drew a number of opponents of the proposed ban to testify. Most said private business owners should have the right to determine whether smoking is allowed inside their establishments.

Business owners inside the two cities have expressed fear that smokers will stop patronizing their businesses and go to bars and clubs on the Kenai Peninsula outside city limits where smoking would continue to be allowed.

Proponents of the ban argue that secondhand smoke endangers the public's health and local government should take measures to assure people their basic right to breathe clean air.

Representatives of the Peninsula Smoke-free Partnership and Teens Against Tobacco Use have said they are not asking people to stop smoking; they only ask that smokers go outside to smoke.

Also on Wednesday's agenda is a proposal from the Alaska State Troopers for Kenai to send one of its uniformed police officers to work with the Bureau of Highway Patrol, a newly established trooper bureau working in traffic teams throughout Alaska.

The Alaska Highway Safety Office would fund the officer's salary for two to five years, and according to City Manager Rick Koch, Kenai Police would hire a new officer to replace the one sent to the state bureau.

At the end of the two- to five-year assignment, Kenai would reduce its force when the senior officer returned, if the city did not deem the additional position necessary, Koch said.

"It's likely the reduction, if the additional officer is not needed at that time, would be made through attrition," he said.

The item is on tonight's agenda as a discussion item only. Koch said, with the concurrence of council members, the proposal would come forward for their approval at the next council meeting.

Council members are to receive an annual report of the Kenai Police Department tonight, showing that the total number of motor vehicle collisions in Kenai rose 18 percent to 375 between 2007 and 2008, but the number of injury accidents dropped from 35 to 25. No traffic fatalities were reported in either year, according to the report.

A public hearing is scheduled for tonight on a proposed ordinance to allow surplus city supplies and equipment to be sold by the Internet bidding process.

"This would give us more flexibility in selling surplus," said Koch. "This would allow us to put (the items) on eBay ... with the council's approval."

He said the measure was sparked by the acquisition of surplus and obsolete buildings and training materials left behind at city-owned land next to the fire training center that was being leased by the University of Alaska. The university and the city have agreed to terminate the lease.

Also scheduled for a public hearing is a code change that would give more zoning code enforcement powers to the city planner.

Rather than have the city manager be the administrative official administering and enforcing provisions of the Kenai Zoning Code, the responsibilities would move to the planner under the supervision of the manager.

City Planner Marilyn Kebschull said earlier, it changes the process from being judicial to something more legislative.

The amended code also details procedures for residents to appeal decisions of the city planner, within 15 days, through the city council sitting as the Board of Adjustment.

Under the proposed change, the city manager will be able to assess an administrative fine of up to $250 a day for failure to comply with an enforcement order.

Kebschull said the city's "goal is to regulate, not cite people" for code violations.

The council tonight also will consider awarding a $35,303 contract to Kodiak Island Native Supply to provide fencing materials for dune protection on Kenai's north beach.

Because $41,000 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant funds are available for the project, Koch said he will seek an increase in the purchase order amount to enable the city to buy additional fencing materials.

The sensitive dune areas are to be fenced with treated lumber and chain link wire fencing to prevent people from damaging dune lands, particularly during the heavy traffic salmon dipnet fishery.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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