Parks: council delays vote on smoking, acts on new fees

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Raleigh city councilors delayed voting on banning smoking in city parks Tuesday because of unanswered questions over costs for “no smoking” signs and how to enforce the ban. Councilors also wondered whether the ban should include downtown parks such as Moore Square and if parks should have areas where smoking would be allowed.

Questions over banning smoking in parks came up in 2007, but the state legislature only gave cities the power to make the rules a year ago. The question originally came up as an issue over cigarette litter but has morphed into a debate over the rights of non-smokers to not have to breathe in tobacco smoke.

When councilors heard the proposal this week, it did not include cost estimates to put “no smoking” signs on all city parks and greenways.

“If we’re looking at a huge expense here, we need to know the facts,” said councilor Thomas Crowder.

Mayor Charles Meeker said the cost would be made up by requiring less litter collection costs to pick up cigarette butts.

Councilor John Odom countered Meeker’s assertion that cutting down on cigarette butts would cut litter pickup costs. “We will still be cleaning up litter,” he said.

Odom also echoed Crowder’s concern, “The cost is going to be extremely high and this is going to be tough to enforce.”

City staff will bring cost estimates back to the council in two weeks.

The tricky issue will be enforcement. The proposal from the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board says that the first line of enforcement will be park staff giving people warnings and asking them not to smoke. If people continue to smoke, city attorney Tom McCormick said park employees could call the police to issue a misdemeanor citation.

Crowder called the proposal an “enforcement nightmare.”

But Meeker said he though smokers would “self enforce” the ban. “Smokers are respectful people and will follow the rules,” he said.

Buncombe County and the City of Asheville already have similar policies in place.

New park fees

Council approved a new set of fees for Raleigh parks. Read the full list at the bottom of this report, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Tennis court rentals will go from $1 per half hour to $1.50.
  • Studio fees at the Pullen Arts Center will go up $20.
  • They set the rates for the Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center to open next near. Daily admission for residents will be $3 for kids and $7 for adults. They will also have discounted 10-visit passes.
  • Rental rates at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex and the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park will go up by $70 to $175, depending on the field, and reservation fees will go up $50 to $150.

Parks Fee Changes 2011

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