Later this month, the Leitchfield City Council will vote on whether to pass a Smoke-Free Leitchfield ordinance, which would prohibit smoking in businesses and enclosed public places.
During the regularly scheduled, Monday, March 7 Leitchfield City Council meeting, Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center (TLRMC) CEO and Population Health Committee Chairman Wayne Meriwether addressed the City Councilmembers to request that they vote on a Smoke-Free Leitchfield ordinance.
Meriwether said he and TLRMC are pursuing the passing of such an ordinance as a way to improve Grayson County’s health, one of the major issues with which is smoking.
“We’re charged as a hospital to address those issues,” Meriwether said.
Meriwether said he is aware that the topic of prohibiting smoking in businesses and public places is a controversial one, but he cannot stand by and watch the health of Grayson County’s citizens, especially its youth, be negatively affected by being exposed to cigarette smoke when in public.
“I just ask that you give it serious consideration,” said Meriwether.
Leitchfield Mayor William Thomason said that, because City Councilmember Margie Decker was sick and absent during the March 7 meeting, the City Council will vote on the smoke-free ordinance at its next meeting on Monday, March 21.
“This issue is not going to go away,” City Councilmember William Dallas said. “It will come to a vote here.”
The City Councilmembers said they all have gone back and forth on deciding the best course of action on this issue.
Dallas said it is one of the most difficult decisions he has had to make in the 10 years he has been on the Leitchfield City Council, but he will take the responsibility of participating in the decision making.
“It’s a huge decision for this community,” he said.
Dallas said he respects every point of view in the discussion, but society is changing, and he asked everyone in attendance at Monday’s meeting to consider the employee who must endure cigarette smoke in his or her workplace and may be unable to get another job.
Dallas also said that he doesn’t understand how a business or restaurant that currently allows smoking could lose business if every local business were on a level playing field.
Leitchfield City Councilmember Kelly Stevenson said he conducted a survey on his personal Facebook page to gauge the public’s opinion on the subject, and 67 percent of responders were for the passing of a local smoke-free ordinance.
Additionally, Stevenson said that for a city to be considered progressive in the state of Kentucky, it needs a smoke-free ordinance.
City Councilmember Harold Miller said he has also gone back and forth on either side of the issue, as well, because he and his fellow Councilmembers represent the citizens of Leitchfield, and he has heard overwhelmingly that his constituents are in favor of such an ordinance, as well.
City Councilmember Raymond “Tooty” Cottrell said the concern from the other side of the argument is that local business owners feel that such an ordinance would be telling people what they can and cannot do in their own businesses.
There is also concern regarding what actually constitutes a public area.
Dallas said that there is confusion regarding places such as Grayson Manor Nursing Home, which has a smoking room for residents, because it is a permanent residence for many individuals.
City Councilmembers also discussed places such as American Legion Post 81, which is considered private, and service stations, many of which restrict public access on their premises.
Stevenson asked that those who attend the March 21 meeting to express their opinion on the subject prior to the City Council’s vote do so respectfully of others’ opinions.
In other business:
*The City Council approved bids for the construction of the new Leitchfield Ball Park Complex and Public Works building.
The total bid amount for all packages for the Leitchfield Ball Park Complex is $1,899,641.86, and the total bid amount for all packages for the Public Works Building is $847,226.78.
Thomason said the projects will likely be financed on a $3 million bond plus $500,000 to be used from the city’s surplus funding.
Thomason said the payments for this financing will be about $180,000 per year.
*The City Council approved the purchase of a new Leitchfield Fire Department (LFD) utility vehicle (a 2016 Chevrolet Suburban) from Bob Hook Chevrolet for $43,853—$2,123 less than the only other bid—based on the recommendation of City Attorney Kenneth Smart, Leitchfield Fire Chief Tim Duvall, and Thomason.
*The City Council approved a LFD invoice from Benny Baxter for five portable radios for the LFD’s new members at $65 a piece.
*The City Council approved a request from Rose Booth, on behalf of the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), to install a plaque and bench in the James D. Beville City Park in honor of Grayson County’s Vietnam veterans.
The plaque will be 12 inches by 12 inches and embedded flat in cement. The bench will have a ground cover beneath it to prevent weed and grass growth.
*The City Council entered Executive Session, during which Smart informed the Councilmembers that litigation had been filed against the City of Leitchfield and that no City money would be involved in the litigation.
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.