Press-Republican

December 12, 2012

New law for smoking on county property weighed

By JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators will hear from the public tonight and then decide on a local law regarding tobacco use on county property.

For more than a year, legislators have been debating a new plan to curb smoking on county property.

The proposal they came up with calls for no smoking or use of any tobacco product, including spit tobacco, on any county property by employees or visitors.

EXCEPTIONS

There are exceptions for the County Landfill and Clinton Community College. Those properties are owned by the county but operated by their own entities, and they have their own smoking policies, explained County Deputy Administrator Rodney Brown.

Smoking is also allowed in a designated area more than 100 feet away from the main building at Plattsburgh International Airport.

The new plan would allow people to smoke in their vehicles on county property.

ENFORCEMENT

Brown said the new law, if enacted, can be enforced by any local law-enforcement officer, including court officers who work in the County Government building.

Violators could face a $500 fine.

“I’ve talked to other counties that have similar laws, and they’ve had to issue a few warnings, but largely there has not been a great need for law enforcement, as most people comply,” Brown said.

If approved, the law will take effect July 1, 2013.

“That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to wait until this took effect, so we can educate the public beforehand and make them familiar with it,” Brown said.

CIRCUMVENTING UNION

When the county comes up with a policy, it must consult its employees union, Civil Service Employees Association. Union members expressed some concerns about the policy, Brown said, which could have prevented it from being enacted.

But by making it a local law instead of a policy, the union does not have to be consulted, Brown said.

CSEA President Joseph Musso said that making the policy a local law instead is not a bad idea.

“I think a local law might be more applicable and equitable because it will apply to everybody, not just employees,” he said.

PUBLIC HEARING

County legislators will hear from the public at the beginning of their meeting at 7 tonight and then vote on it later in the evening.

Email Joe LoTemplio: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com