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Granite Quarry parks won’t go tobacco-free without a fight

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Doug Shelton said he enjoys a good cigar, but he doesn’t smoke one in a restaurant or around his grandchildren.

Still, he doesn’t see the harm in smoking out in the open air, such as in a town park. Shelton told the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen Tuesday night he thinks any consideration of going to tobacco-free parks is government overreach, even though the intentions might be good.

Shelton spoke Tuesday night after the town board heard a presentation on tobacco-free parks from Amy Smith, a health education specialist and wellness coordinator for the Rowan County Health Department.

For residents and town employees, Smith said having public parks that are tobacco-free “is just a healthy thing to do.”

Smith gave several reasons why tobacco-free parks make sense:

• It addresses Rowan County health priorities and its leading causes of death.

• Secondhand exposure to smoke is harmful.

• Parks should be healthy places for people.

• It promotes positive role models for children.

• It reduces harmful cigarette litter and costs associated with its cleanup.

• The majority of the public supports and wants tobacco-free parks.

Smith said tobacco-free parks are a state initiative, one she personally has been working on for three years. Salisbury, Spencer, East Spencer and Rockwell have gone to tobacco-free parks and/or greenways.

Also in this region, Concord, Kannapolis, Cabarrus County, Mooresville and Huntersville have tobacco-free parks and, in some cases, expanded smoke-free environments to all town facilities.

Smith said 73.1 percent of all residents surveyed in a 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for Rowan County said they want smoke-free playgrounds. That same survey showed 79 percent of Rowan residents are non-smoking.

Smith also cited a “Circulation Journal” chart showing clear percentage drops in hospitalizations associated with heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disease since the institution of smoking bans.

North Carolina’s ban on smoking in restaurants and bars has had no negative impact on the restaurant industry or employment, according to N.C. Public Health. It also has reduced the weekly average emergency room visits for heart attacks by 21 percent, Smith said.

The city of Salisbury has a $50 fine for smoking in public parks or on greenways. Alderwoman Mary Ponds asked Smith who issues those citations. Smith said police officers can issue the fine, and an officer or parks and recreation employees can give warnings prior to any fine being levied.

To her knowledge, Smith said, no one has ever received a smoking fine in Salisbury.

“It hasn’t become a big thing,” she said of enforcement problems.

Mayor Bill Feather said Smith’s presentation Tuesday was for information only, and he asked his fellow board members if they wanted to put it on the agenda for a vote in October.

Ponds and Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers said yes, but Aldermen Mike Brinkley and Arin Wilhelm said no. Feather broke the tie and said the matter would be on October’s agenda.

During her presentation, Smith said discarded cigarette butts can be harmful to children and wildlife, they can reach waterways through storm drains, and if still lighted, they can cause fires. Cigarette litter also represents 20 percent of all trash collected in many community clean-up days, Smith said.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen:

• Heard from Finance Director Jim Philyaw that in the first month of property tax collections for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, 60 percent of the town’s tax revenues were paid — a high percentage he has never seen before in any town.

“That is amazing,” Philyaw said. “… You’ve got some good citizens here.”

• Approved a policy for town purchasing cards. which will be Visa purchasing cards issued by BB&T. A purchasing card will be issued to the town manager for $5,000, to help with purchases that exceed a department head’s limit of $500.

A purchase order is required for for all purchases. The administration/board, department heads, fire department and police department each will have purchasing cards with $500 limits.

• Were encouraged to remind residents of the Community Kickoff Event for a downtown revitalization plan. It will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Town Hall, 143 N. Salisbury Ave.

“Please tell everyone you know to attend,” Feather said. “… That’s a very important thing.”

• Were reminded of the Granite Quarry Family Fun Fest Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Civic Park. Barefoot Cruisers will perform from 7-9 p.m.

• Were introduced to Josh Fox, a new full-time firefighter for the town. He also is a member of the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department.

Assistant Fire Chief Bill Fraley said the town’s new fire truck is in service and running calls.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

 

 

 

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