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Hearing on smoking ban to be held in Jan.

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Residents will have a chance to let the Harrison County Board of Health know their thoughts about proposed ordinance changes that will affect public smoking during a hearing in January.

The Health Board on Thursday scheduled the meeting for 7 p.m. Jan. 11, 2001. The department's administration will announce a meeting location at a later date.

The proposed changes to the existing county ordinance would ban smoking in all public places, including restaurants.

Thursday's special board meeting was to help members plan for the public hearing, said Mary Ann Iquinto, president.

"We'll hear no public comments at this meeting," she said just after it convened. "This is a special meeting to plan the public meeting where the public will have the opportunity to speak."

During the meeting, board members heard from Mike Harman, of the state Bureau of Public Health, who has helped organize similar meetings in other counties.

After hearing about the experiences with such meetings in other counties, the board adopted the following rules:

n Written comments will be accepted beginning immediately and until the end of the Jan. 11 meeting.

n All of those wanting to speak at the meeting must register. They can register beginning immediately and until 15 minutes prior to the meeting.

n Speakers will alternate between those for and those against during the meeting.

n Speakers must disclose if they are representatives of a smoking advocacy group, anti-smoking group, or if they are acting as informal conduits for such organizations.

n Speakers will not have time limits placed on them. But if the meeting goes longer than two-and-a-half hours, members will adjourn. They will schedule another public meeting to hear the rest of those wishing to speak who registered before the first meeting. No new registrations will be accepted for the second meeting, if it is needed.

Many who gathered for the meeting left after finding out they would not be able to address the board about the ordinance on Thursday. Some of those who did stay had the chance to go ahead and register to speak.

Sam Moscar is one of those who put his name on the sheet.

"I don't agree with having no time limits (on each speaker)," he said. "I think some people could go too long. Their times should be limited to a couple a minutes."

Moscar is among those who favor the ordinance changes, he said.

"The whole issue to me is not about liberties, but about health," he said.

Also during the meeting, the board instructed department administrator Randy Moodispaugh and attorney Lewis Clark to research whether or not the proposed changes are enforceable.

"I want them to speak to the enforceability of this," said Thomas Vidovich, Clarksburg city manager and board member.

"If (the administration) comes back and says they can't enforce this, then I won't vote for it."

The health department can be reached at 623-9308 to register to speak at the January meeting.

Written comments about the ordinance changes can be sent to 116 S. Third St., Clarksburg, WV, 26301.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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