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Task force to finalize indoor smoking ban policy

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- A task force formed Tuesday by the Harrison-Clarksburg Board of Health will spend the next month finalizing details for an indoor smoking ban policy.

Health board members spent much of their bi-monthly regular meeting discussing the proposed ban, following a public forum on the issue last month.

The proposal would ban most indoor smoking in the county.

Board members plan to discuss and possibly vote on the regulation during a special meeting scheduled for 12:30 p.m. March 13, in the Harrison County Courthouse.

The task force is charged with developing a policy, the individual elements of which will be voted on or changed by the board.

Much of Tuesday's conversation revolved around two key issues: The definition of a bar and enforcement of the policy.

Christina Mickey, Environmental Tobacco Smoke Project coordinator for the state and a Monongalia County sanitarian, gave the board examples of how other counties have defined what constitutes a bar.

Bars will be exempt from the smoking ban.

"Determining what is a bar and what is a restaurant is the biggest thing," she told the board.

In Monongalia County, if an establishment can prove that at least 50 percent of its income is from alcohol sales, it can qualify as a bar and be exempt from the smoking ban, she said.

The board also discussed what other locations should be included in or exempt from the ban, such as bingo halls and fire halls.

But board members Mary Ann Iquinto, Joyce Rabanal, Tom Vidovich and James Jarrett made no decisions on the final form of the ordinance during the meeting.

Members did, however, say how the ordinance will be enforced once it is passed. Board attorney Lewis Clark handed out a document, which, in part, outlined possible penalties. They ranged from $250 to $1,000.

Clark said under the preliminary plan the establishment's owner and the smoker would be in violation of the ordinance, and, therefore, subject to a fine.

But Monongalia County has had few problems since its policy was enacted several years ago, Mickey said.

"I can't say we've had no problems," she said. "But we have dealt with the problems that have come up."

The board appointed Harrison-Marion County Tobacco Prevention Coalition member Delia Naranjo, Sam Moscar along with Clark and Rabanal to the special task force.

In other action, the board discussed possible places in the area to relocate the department. The health department moved to the second floor of the Policano Professional Building on South Third Street about 10 months ago.

But the staff formed a committee, with the consent of the board, to find a permanent new home shortly thereafter.

Among the options discussed were various downtown locations and a site at Eastpointe Plaza.

Also during the meeting, Vidovich, who serves on the board because he is Clarksburg's city manager, asked for a change in the by-laws to allow him to appoint another person to serve in his seat.

As they are now written, the by-laws require the city manager to serve. Vidovich said he is open to specifics, such as the term the person will serve and other requirements.

His motion passed and will be discussed at a later meeting.

The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. April 10 in the courthouse.

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

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