Point Borough Council Debates Smoking Ordinance
Enforceability, scope of coverage debated
A proposed ordinance that would ban smoking on borough-owned property remains under discussion, after Point Borough Council agreed to postpone action while councilmembers looked further into the topic.
During the council's workshop session Tuesday night, Councilmember Christopher Goss said the main point of the ordinance is to give the borough the ability to address a nuisance behavior.
But the remainder of the council and Mayor William Schroeder raised concerns about everything from the scope of covered properties to the extent of penalties and the potential burden it would create on the borough's municipal court.
Council President Antoinette DePaola said her biggest concern was the impact of the ordinance, as drafted, on the borough's employees.
"At our beaches and parks and in the recreation center I wouldn't have a problem banning it there," she said, "but I'm concerned about banning it at the municipal building. That means our employees can't smoke here, either."
Banning smoking at the municipal building might result in employees who were using their paid break time to smoke leaving the building and grounds to do so, DePaola said, resulting in them being gone longer and exposing them to the potential for injury-causing situations.
She later described an incident where a borough employee on paid break walked to a nearby store to get coffee and tripped en route, resulting in the borough paying worker's compensation because the injury occurred during a paid break.
"You want to keep employees at your complex if possible to control the atmosphere," she said.
DePaola also questioned whether it was fair to ban smoking for those attending municipal court, which is held in Borough Hall.
"Sometimes people are here four, five, six hours," she said. "It doesn’t seem reasonable to ask people not to smoke the entire time they’re here."
"Why not hold ourselves to the same standard national parks do?" Goss replied.
Councilmember Robert Sabosik said the penalties imposed under the ordinance -- a fine and up to 90 hours of community service -- seemed rather steep.
Goss asked Borough Attorney Jerry Dasti how much discretion there is regarding the penalties handed out for violating the ordinance. Dasti said it was up to the judge, but noted that was no guarantee they wouldn't dole out a maximum penalty.
Schroeder expressed concern about the burden on the municipal court of dealing with those penalized for smoking on a borough-owned property, saying the court would likely need more staffing to deal with the resulting enforcement.
"I understand the concept and concern," Schroeder said. "Are we really going to get into that as a duty of the borough?"
"I can't say I'm in agreement with taking smoking away from someone who's out for a leisurely walk with their dog in the park," he said.
One suggestion was that the borough look at possible places where smokers could still smoke while keeping them away from building entrances, which can subject others to secondhand smoke.
"Do the legwork and come back with designated smoking areas," Schroeder said. "Give them (smokers) a little bit of a place to do it, and then we'll talk more."
"Part of the absolute (duty of government) is how you manage the property," Goss said.
"It belongs to the guy who smokes, too," Dasti said.