City of Union -- stock

Union aldermen soon will vote on an ordinance limiting smoking at city parks.

The decision to move forward with an ordinance instead of just instituting a park rule was made at Monday’s parks, buildings, development and public safety committee meeting.

In September, the city’s park board recommended a new ordinance to officially prohibit smoking in certain park areas. The idea was to enact a formal ordinance instead of a simple park rule so the prohibition would be more enforceable.

A partial smoking ban for the city parks was first discussed several years ago, according to Parks and Recreation Director Angela Sullivan. Signs were put up, but there was never an official rule limiting smoking in certain areas.

The proposed ban would prevent smokers from being within 25 feet of most structures, including playgrounds, bathrooms and bleachers. The proposed ban also would cover the new dock at the city lake.

The smoking ban would include park pavilions during public events, but private rentals would likely be allowed to smoke, said Sullivan, adding she has noticed some issues with smoking during her first year as the park director. This summer, at Veterans Memorial Park, people were smoking while standing in lines at the concession stand.

Smoking should have been prohibited based on signage, but with no rule or ordinance on the books, it was unenforceable.

Sullivan said she doesn’t think it’s right to subject kids and teenage employees to the smoke.

The park board agreed to amend its rules at its September meeting to include the 25-foot rule, but Sullivan and the park board feel an ordinance would do more — it would have “more teeth.”

Sullivan said an ordinance would allow for her employees to say something and, if needed, have a police officer handle any issues.

City Attorney Matt Schroeder and Police Chief Norm Brune support an ordinance over just changing the park rules, she noted.

“We have to have an ordinance to enforce something,” Schroeder said. “If there’s going to be a fine or possible jail time, you better have an ordinance.”

Alderman Bob Schmuke suggested creating a designated smoking area instead of a 25-foot rule.

City Administrator Russell Rost said the designated area might eliminate perfectly good spaces 25 feet away and actually make things more restrictive.

Alderman Karen Erwin said she is unsure how the restriction would be “pulled off.” She suggested just making the whole park smoke free and only allowing smoking in parking lots.

Schmuke added he feels there could be issues with enforcement. He predicts there would be a lot of fighting among adults.

Alderman Paul Arand said he favors moving forward with the ordinance. He said it would allow city staff to tell people to move if they’re too close to a building and most would probably comply.

Alderman David Pope said having an ordinance on the books would make things “more serious” and get the point across. Telling someone to move wouldn’t be seen as a suggestion, he said.

Ultimately the committee voted to move forward with the ordinance. The full board will vote on the measure at a future board meeting.