Commonwealth Journal

November 28, 2012

Smoking law enforcement left up to businesses

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

City officials are reminding business owners of their responsibility in informing customers and employees about smoking restrictions. 
Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese said during Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting that she’d been asked by the Somerset Police Department to let business owners know that they should take steps to tell violators of the city’s smoking ordi-nance about the law before going to police. 
Wiese said people are violating the city ordinance and smoking right in the doorways of local businesses — and the business owners aren’t taking responsibility and informing them of the ordinance.
Instead, they’re going straight to police.
“They (SPD) are getting a lot of phone calls that’s coming through dispatch and they get over there and it’s because the merchant doesn’t want to go out and tell the customer not to stand next to the door,” said Wiese. “It’s taking up a lot of their time.” 
According to the city’s ordinance, which restricts smoking in public places, outdoor smoking is prohibited within 10 feet of entrances, windows and ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.
“The only time the police need to be called is if you tell them not to and they still continue to do it or they refuse to leave or they’re disturbing the peace,” Wiese said. 
The ordinance, which was passed by city council in an 11-1 vote in January, is available to the public at Somerset City Hall.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler did not attend Monday’s meeting because he was out of town. 
In other news from Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting:
• Councilor Mike New asked that the council recognize the Somerset High School football team for a stellar season. 
“They had a season to be proud of,” New said. 
The team went 11-3 in the regular and post-season, picking up steam even after two of its starters were sidelined after they were involved in a serious car accident in September. 
• Councilor Jim Mitchell mentioned the city’s new natural gas truck to be used for service work by the city’s water department. Councilors said the city will be looking at significant savings through the newest addition to its natural gas vehicle fleet.
• City council accepted bids for a new natural gas sanitation truck, at $236,366. Bids received were for the same truck, with the same motor. 
• City council went into executive session to discuss pending litigation for around 15 minutes and returned with no action taken.
• Wiese said she received an anonymous letter about a city employee “who had children in their vehicle.” Wiese said the matter was taken care of and the employee was given a new copy of the city’s vehicle policy.
• City council announced it would only meet once in the month of December, on Monday, December 10. What would’ve been the second meeting of that month landed on Christmas Eve.