Kenai City Council considers ban on smoking in all public buildings

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2003

Calling all smokers.

The Kenai City Council will consider an ordinance that would ban smoking in all public buildings in the city -- including bars -- at its April 16 meeting. The council expects to face opposition to this ordinance and hopes to hear from supporters of smokers' rights, as well as those in favor of the ban at the meeting.

"Let's see how many people we can pack in here," council member Amy Jackman said. "Let's bring something like this forward and hear from more people."

When the council had its first public hearing on instituting a smoking ban in eating establishments at its Feb. 5 meeting, nine people spoke in favor of a ban while only one spoke against it. Several city restaurant owners who attended the meeting said they would not oppose the ban.

As a result of that meeting, the council directed the administration to bring forward an ordinance that would ban smoking in eating establishments in the city. The ordinance calls for smoking to be prohibited in all indoor eating establishments within the city.

Smoking would still be allowed in outdoor areas of eating establishments, eating establishments that are used in their entirety for private functions and bars -- as long as they are separated from restaurant areas by solid, floor to ceiling walls or windows and are separately ventilated. According to the ordinance, there may be doors between the bar and restaurant areas, which should remain closed whenever practical.

The council held another discussion on the smoking ban issue at its Wednesday meeting. The members of the public who spoke on the issue were all in favor of a smoking ban, although there were some complaints over allowing doors between bars and restaurants.

The speakers also expressed the sentiment that the proposed ordinance does not go far enough in protecting nonsmokers.

Bill Osborn and Roger Meeks, both of Kenai, told the council they should include the Alaska Lanes bowling alley in the ordinance to protect the children who go there and senior citizens, who can be especially affected by smoke due to breathing problems, Meeks said.

This suggestion generated some complaints over singling out one business. Jackman pointed out that there are other establishments in town with a similar snack bar set-up as the bowling alley, like the Peninsula Oilers Baseball Club bingo hall, that should be considered along with the bowling alley.

"I will not support targeting area businesses with this," she said. "If we're going to do this, do it across the board. I don't think it's fair."

Council member Jim Bookey also opposed including just the bowling alley in the ordinance.

"I don't want to pick and choose, that's putting us all in a position where we don't need to be or want to go," he said. "If we start this, I won't support any ordinance at all."

Bill Osborn spoke again, saying it wasn't his intent to single out the bowling alley. The consensus of the public speakers was that smoking should be prohibited in the bowling alley and all similar establishments.

"My advice to the council is if you're going to do a no-smoking thing, do it right," said Betty Osborn of Kenai. "Protect the people that don't smoke in all (businesses)."

This line of conversation led to the council directing the city's administration to write up a substitute smoking ban ordinance that would ban smoking in all enclosed public buildings in the city, including bars, Alaska Lanes and the Oiler's bingo hall. The only establishments that would not be subject to this ordinance would be private clubs, like the American Legion hall and the Elks, Moose and Eagles clubs.

"The thing about your rights with smoking is, you're interfering with my rights the minute your smoke hits my nose," said Kenai Mayor John Williams. "At that point I have a choice to get up and go outside. Why not switch it the other way around?"

Though the idea for the ordinance was proposed facetiously by Bookey when he suggesting the council just put up "no smoking" signs on either end of the city, the council agreed to pursue it, to at least generate some testimony from people who support smokers' rights.

The substitute ordinance does not mean the original ordinance that still allows smoking in bars and some other public buildings is thrown out the window. The council can choose which ordinance it will vote on.

City Attorney Carey Graves will draft the new ordinance and send it out to restaurants and other establishments that would be affected to get public input. The public hearing on the ordinance will be at the council's April 16 meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

n Heard an update on Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly activities from assembly member Betty Glick of Kenai. Glick told the council that the assembly members had been invited at their last meeting to take a tour of the upstairs of the Pacific Rim Institute of Safety and Management facility in Kenai, which is designed to be used as an emergency management training and operations center. The city council hopes the borough assembly will decide to relocate the Office of Emergency Management to the Kenai facility, instead of putting it in a proposed new CES administration facility.

"When (assembly) president Sprague brought (the invitation) up, there were a few little smirks and that disturbed me," Glick said. "It seemed to me like people are approaching this with a closed mind. I hope we could do this with an open mind and (look at) what is in the best interest of the borough."

The tour will be at 10 a.m. April 1. The assembly will vote on an ordinance that would purchase four lots in Soldotna for the CES facility at its meeting later that day.

"From a fiscally responsible point of view, we have a facility (that) with little or no effort could be turned into a first-class emergency response center," Glick said. "I'm not going to let go of this because, from my opinion, you have to look at this from a fiscally responsible point of view."

n Held a continuation of a public hearing on the proposed paving project of McCollum and Aliak drives. The council must decide how the costs of the project will be assessed to property owners along the streets to be paved. Two options are to assess the costs on a linear foot basis (how many feet of property run along the road) or a square foot basis (how large each lot is). Because of the shape and size of some of the lots, the difference between the assessment methods could mean a difference in thousands of dollars to some property owners.

"It's a difficult decision," Williams said. "None of (the local improvement district projects) have ever come up with numbers that are skewed quite as much as these are. Primarily, it's the individual citizens that I'm concerned seeing all treated fairly."

After hearing several residents testify as to whether they preferred the linear foot or square foot assessment method, the council decided to postpone a vote on the issue so more information can be gathered. The administration will prepare two more cost assessment methods based on the square footage of the lots for the council to consider at its next meeting. One method will assess lots by their square footage measuring back 150 feet from the new road. The other method will assess property measuring 300 feet back from the road. The administration also will research whether the paving already done on McCollum Drive by the state will have to be redone or not and how that will affect the cost assessment to the properties bordering that pavement.

n Voted unanimously to allow employees to opt out of the public employees retirement system and-or opt out of the municipal medical and hospital insurance coverage.

n Voted unanimously to amend the city's flexible benefits plan.

n Voted unanimously to sell eight lots in the Inlet Woods subdivision to Philip W. and Eileen Bryson for $107,880.

n Voted unanimously to spend $3,100 from the contingency fund to pay for additional phone lines that were installed in the city's wellhouses.

n Voted unanimously to transfer $5,500 from the repair and maintenance account to the beautification department to purchase banners.

n Voted unanimously to state the harmful impacts of the Alaska State Housing Association's rural-owner occupied loan program on the city of Kenai and urge a change in the program so the entire Kenai Peninsula is included in the program by changing the definition of a small community.

n Voted unanimously to award a $26,768 bid to Airport Automation Corporation for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant lift device for the airport.

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