Plan for smoke-free Parkfest fails

Thursday, May 3, 2007
On Monday, Greencastle city clerk/treasurer Teresa Glenn declared May Mental Health Month in the City of Greencastle. On hand for the declaration at Mary's Field Park were (from left) city bookkeeper Tiffany Brunes, Mental Health America of Putnam County board president Susan Stewart, Glenn, MHAPC executive director Eileen Johnson and city deputy clerk/treasurer Pam Pierce.

A proposal to make Greencastle's summer Parkfest series smoke-free was snuffed out Wednesday night with members of the city park board deadlocked on the vote and the mayor declining to break the tie.

Park Board President Leslie Hanson, who has pushed for two years to eliminate smoking during the weekly outdoor concerts at Robe-Ann Park, voted in support of the ban along with board Vice President Tim Trigg.

"I still think it's a good idea," Trigg said prior to the vote.

Voting against the smoking ban, however, were board members Kara Thomas and Dr. John Hennette.

"I have a problem setting those types of policies," Hennette gave as his reason for voting against the smoking ban.

With a tie vote, Greencastle Mayor Nancy Michael, who attended Wednesday night's meeting, was called on to cast the deciding vote, according to state law. But when asked, Michael voted to abstain, which left the board's vote at a tie and resulted in a dead motion.

Afterwards Michael told the park board that she felt an issue as controversial as smoking "needs to be felt very good by all four members" of the park board.

"I think there needs to be enough support," she said of the smoking ban.

Like Thomas and Hennette, Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk withheld his support of the ban as well. During previous discussions, Weinschenk said he wouldn't support a ban unless members of the Greencastle Civic League -- organizers of Parkfest -- were also in support.

Weinschenk got his answer Wednesday night.

In a letter issued to the park board April 9, Civic League Co-President Erin Confer-Staggers wrote that the League asks concert goers to refrain from smoking during the event but does not officially ban smoking. She said the League would abide by the decision of the park board.

"If the park becomes smoke-free, we will certainly follow suit and our events will be smoke-free," the letter states. "Until that time, however, we will continue as we have in years past, depending on the good manners and thoughtful consideration of the smokers in attendance."

Michael said that from her conversations with other mayors in Indiana, outdoor smoking is less of a concern than indoor smoking is right now.

"We're still trying to get a handle on indoor areas," Michael said. "I applaud the board for having this conversation. I think it's very important."

Conceding defeat, Hanson vowed to bring the issue back again next year.

Meanwhile, Michael took the opportunity Wednesday night to comment about the citywide smoking ban that was approved, on first reading, by the city council last week.

"I feel very confident that there will be some type of passage of a smoking ordinance Tuesday night," she said.

The city council will meet for its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, May 8 where members will likely discuss and vote for the second, and final time, on a citywide smoking ban in enclosed public places.

If approved, Greencastle would become the 32nd city in Indiana to approve a smoke-free ordinance, according to the mayor.

On Tuesday, council members could do one of several things: approve the ordinance in its current form, amend it and then approve it or vote it down altogether.

Supporters and opponents of the smoking issue have vowed to rally support for their cause and attend next week's meeting.

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