A proposed ban on smoking and other forms of tobacco use on all city property, even outdoors, goes before city councilors on Thursday.
The ban would apply to all city parks and athletic fields and, except for designated smoking areas, the outdoor areas surrounding all city buildings. Violators of the proposed new ban could be subject to a $50 fine. Before that, though, city parks staff or police would warn violators to stop, officials said.
“The reality of it is we do not have tobacco cops out on the streets, watching people,” said Leif Dahlin, the city’s community services director. “When we have issues, we ask people to cease and desist. If they simply don’t want to cooperate, then I will contact the Augusta Police Department to assist in warning the individual. If it continues, then they are cited. We want to give the benefit to the resident, to the user of our parks, to comply.”
The ordinance has been tweaked since Dahlin’s first draft was proposed; it was expanded from just prohibiting smoking to also banning other tobacco use, such as chewing tobacco.
Provisions banning tobacco use on sidewalks running along streets next to city parks and other grounds were removed from the ordinance.
And the ordinance was altered to allow smoking in specific areas — to be designated by city staff — as well as outside city buildings, including the Augusta Civic Center, Buker Community Center, Augusta City Center, the John Charest Public Works Compound, Lithgow Public Library, the police department and Old Fort Western.
All designated outdoor smoking areas at those sites will be at least 20 feet from entryways, windows, vents and doorways, and not in a location that allows smoke to circulate back into the building.
Councilors on Thursday are also scheduled to:
* consider an order authorizing a 15-year power purchase contract with Revolution Energy in which the alternative energy firm would install solar photovoltaic systems to help provide electricity at City Center and Buker Community Center and solar hot air and pellet boiler systems to help heat Buker Community Center. The city would commit to purchasing the energy produced by the systems;
* hear presentations from Raymond Fecteau regarding the petanque courts at Mill Park and from Police Chief Robert Gregoire and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency representative Chip Woodman regarding criminal activity in the region and state;
* consider accepting an $8,000 Project Canopy Grant for tree pruning and maintenance, approving the Kennebec County Hazard Mitigation Plan, and Land Use Ordinance changes reducing some minimum road frontage requirements; and
* meet in a closed-door session for sale or lease of property negotiations.
By Keith Edwards