Smoking ordinance delayed again

Published 11:56 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Approval of Picayune’s smoking ordinance has again been delayed.

The council agenda had the matter set for action at Tuesday’s meeting. When it came time to discuss the matter, it was moved to the end of the meeting, apparently due to city attorney Nathan Farmer’s absence.

At the end of the meeting when the issue was discussed by the council, with Farmer present, Farmer said the ordinance has undergone a number of changes since it’s first introduction in late 2008. The revisions addressed concerns with enforcement and required distances that smokers would need to be from the entrance of buildings. In some cases those distances, if followed, would have people smoking in the street, council member Leavern Guy said.

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Guy said the reason for the long delay in the implementation of the ordinance was that logic needed to be employed when adopting this ordinance. Guy said while he was not ready to adopt it Tuesday, he was ready to follow the council’s decision.

Police Chief Jim Luke was asked if he needed to look at the ordinance before it passed since his officers would be the ones helping to enforce it. Luke said he has not had time to look over the ordinance since he just returned from a trip that involved delivering proclamations to all the law enforcement agencies who helped the city after Hurricane Katrina. Council member Donald Parker agreed that Luke should have time to look it over.

Council member Anna Turnage also agreed that the department should have a chance to look it over, but she would like to be able to approve the ordinance before this term is up. Council member Jerry Bounds said he is tired of seeing negative headlines about this ordinance and would like to see a decision on the matter at the Tuesday meeting.

After more discussion, the council decided to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, May 26, at 6 p.m. so the police department and the council members would have more time to review the ordinance. A public hearing will be held at that time and then the council says it will make a decision on the matter.

This year’s budget is looking good, said City Clerk Priscilla Daniel. She presented the council with a full report on the current financial standing of the city. She said sales tax collections appear to be meeting projections and most departments are still on budget. However there were some departments that have gone a little bit over budget. She plans to amend the budget again and get it back in line before the end of June.

Guy voiced opposition to Daniel’s method of keeping up with the finances in spite of the good news. However, he did not question the accuracy of the figures. The council approved the report, but Guy voted against its approval.

Luke gave the council a presentation concerning the department’s Pay it Forward trip to various departments who lent personnel to Picayune after Katrina. He said he was interviewed by Fox News in Washington, D.C., and was given a letter commending the city’s rebuilding efforts following Katrina by Virgina’s Department of Public Safety. During the trip, Luke and a few of his officers stopped at law enforcement agencies across the country to thank them for their help after the storm.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said the city will accept bids Thursday on part of the Downtown Revitalization project.

A 7-year resident of Dozier street, Ann Dupont Bennett, addressed the council about a long standing drainage problem in her area. She said a ditch near her residence holds water to the point of stagnation and appears not to be providing the drainage it should.

“It’s awful, guys. It smells and the weeds are over my head,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she would keep up with the ditch herself but she is physically unable. Bounds said that cleaning that ditch is not her responsibility, it is the responsibility of city employees. Bennett’s biggest concern is that hurricane season is approaching.

Mayor Greg Mitchell asked Public Works Director Chad Frierson to look at the area and discuss the matter with Bennett and then meet with Miller to report his findings.

The council went into executive session to discuss a contractual matter with the Centraplex and two personnel matters, one concerning the Police Department. Miller said after executive session the council took no action on any of the executive session matters.

In other business the council;

— Recognized Daryl Smith, Angela Wood, Liz Frierson and Reba Beebe for efforts in keeping Mississippi Beautiful.

— Approved unmarked vehicles for the police department.

— Accepted donations totaling $6,500 to the Picayune Police Memorial Pay it Forward Fund.

— Accepted donations totaling $3,110 to the police summer camp program.

— Accepted $700 in reimbursement from the Miss. Dept. of Health to help fund the Fire Academy for Kids summer camp, to be held June 8-12 for ages six to nine and July 6-10 for ages 10 to 12.

The next regular meeting of the council will be June 2, which is also general election day.