Smoking A Hot Topic At Warsaw Common Council Meeting

It’s now up to Warsaw Common Council on whether or not smoking will be banned in city parks.
Tuesday evening, the Park Board voted 2-1 to recommend to the council that the city ban smoking in parks.
Voting in favor of the ban were Bill Baldwin and Michelle Boxell, with board Vice President Larry Ladd opposed. President Steve Haines did not vote, and board member Rick Paczkowski was absent.
The recommendation to ban smoking came after Ladd’s motion to not recommend a smoking ban was defeated 1-2. The Park Board has been discussing the issue for the last four months.
Ladd started the conversation off Tuesday by saying, “We’ve talked about this a couple of months now. I’m not a smoker and I don’t particularly like being around people that do, but my thinking is that putting an ordinance in is only as good as the enforcement and … I just think it puts more of a burden on our employees and I just don’t feel very positive about recommending to the council that an ordinance be put into the park areas.”
He said Winona Lake Park, which has a smoking ban, is a lot smaller area than Warsaw’s park system. He said at Central Park, which sometimes attracts 5,000 or 6,000 people for major concerts, it would be very difficult to enforce a smoking ban and the responsibility would fall upon Park employees.
Ladd said he wouldn’t object to some signs asking people as a courtesy to go elsewhere to smoke.
Baldwin asked Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer if people had to be 8 feet away from Parks buildings, and Plummer said they did because that was state law. Baldwin asked if that applied to the picnic shelters, and Plummer said the state law did not apply to those areas or city playgrounds.
As far as enforcement of a ban, Boxell said, “It’s a peer pressure type thing. I don’t know if you need a full ordinance to do peer pressure. Signage is firm enough if it’s worded in such a way that it’s clear we don’t want smoking there. That’s still peer pressure.”
She said policing a ban would be difficult.
Plummer said that while signage without an ordinance wouldn’t be enforceable, it would be a way to ask patrons to respect non-smokers.
Boxell asked if it could just be a park rule and not an ordinance that there’s no smoking in the parks. Plummer said city attorney Mike Valentine said if the Park Board wanted to take action, it needed to be an ordinance.
Patron Jennifer Blair said Warsaw Police Department officer Joel Beam is the enforcement officer and he told her that he’s been asked by numerous people at events to ask smokers to stop, but his hands are tied until there’s an ordinance. She said Beam was “very much in favor” of a smoking ban in the parks. Blair also indicated that Beam had talked to Park Board members about it, but everyone at Tuesday’s meeting said he had not talked to them.
Ladd made his motion to not make any recommendation to the council about a smoking ban. Baldwin seconded his motion for sake of discussion, but voted against it with Boxell when the vote was taken.
Boxell said she wanted to make a recommendation that the council take the matter up and they investigate it further for discussion, but she didn’t make that into a motion.
Plummer said, “The thing I struggle with is we’ve talked about this for four months. How much more information do you need to make a decision? I think it’s pretty cut and dry: You’re either for an ordinance or you’re against it. We certainly can go another month, but all we’re going to do is make a recommendation, we’re not saying the ordinance is in effect. That’s not our position, that’s the council’s position. So we’re just going to send a recommendation to the council for their decision.”
Baldwin then made a motion “that we advise the city council that they consider this as an ordinance or they make an ordinance. Our recommendation is no smoking in the parks.” Boxell provided a second to the motion, and she and Baldwin voted in favor of it, with Ladd opposed.
“We have a recommendation to send to the city council,” Haines declared.
In other matters, Maintenance Director Shaun Gardner said the Apollo fitness structure at Lucerne Park has been installed and working properly.
“We did notice that during the heat of the day, it gets pretty hot so we’re looking at a shade structure of some sort,” he said.
He said the new play structure at Lucerne is coming along very nicely as well. It could be completed next week.
“It’s pretty neat looking,” Gardner stated.
Recreation Director Sheila Wieringa gave an activities report.
She said the Meet the Beatles concert Friday night had the biggest attendance yet for the series with 700 to 750 people. “It was huge,” she said, and the band was very interactive with the kids.
Mantis Skate Park had its late night skate with its biggest crowd out there this year, she said. More than 15 skaters were there, with Papa John’s providing the pizza.
Community canoeing was offered Saturday, and a free family movie was shown that night in Central Park. Wieringa estimated 250 people attended the movie. The next free family movie night is in September.
Paddleboard registration was full over the weekend, and the Central Park Concert Series has remained strong, she said. The country concert is this Friday, with the opening act starting at 6:30 p.m. and the main act is Tracy Lawrence.
Wieringa said she received the Indiana Arts Commission grant for more than $3,900 for the 2017 concert series.
Plummer gave an update on the project he and Oakwood Cemetery sexton Hal Heagy have been working on to provide NIPSCO natural gas to the Pike Lake campgrounds, the fireman’s building and the new facility back there. All the underground boring is done and meters were set Tuesday. The campground will be changed over to natural gas today.
In other business, the board heard an update from Pat Brown, president of Sitescapes Inc., Mishawaka, on the Parks and Recreation Department’s five-year master plan. He said a lot of different people voted on the short- and long-term priorities for the parks. Brown and Plummer will review the short-term items, and put together a plan of when they’ll be accomplished. He said budget figures aren’t included at this point for the priorities.
Plummer said some of the items, which are labeled long-term but are Stellar Communities projects, will have to be completed in about five years if Warsaw is named a Stellar Community Aug. 18 by the state.