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Smoking ban proposed for parks

April 23, 2019 GMT

MICHIGAN CITY — All public parks and playgrounds in Michigan City – including the beach at Washington Park – could be smoke-free by summer if 5th Ward Councilwoman Sharon Carnes’ smoking ban is approved by the Common Council.

Carnes introduced the idea Tuesday, and it raised some concerns from fellow council members.

Smoking is already banned at Patriot and Gardena parks, Washington Park Zoo and North Pointe Pavilion.

“This would extend that ban to all (city-owned) park facilities and grounds,” Carnes said. “Of course, the main goal of this is to protect public health and guarantee the right to nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air.

“But I think one thing people don’t understand is the amount of litter it has generated from cigarette butts and the like at the beach and park; and it would also help eliminate those issues.”

First Ward Councilman Bryant Dabney recalled discussing the potential of such a law several years ago.

“Reading over the ordinance here – all great goals that we’re trying to attain,” he said. “When I was on the Park Department Board of Directors, this came up. And we started getting into discussions when we were down at Washington Park, and someone starts to smoke, who’s going to enforce it at all times?

“The police obviously can’t be there. Then we have our 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids working down at the park. Are they going to walk up to someone and tell them they can’t smoke? So, this could have some weird, unintended consequences ... I like it, but I know there could be some issues.”

Carnes said she spoke with a member of the Park Board and Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz to ask for support, but noted the Park Board has yet to add the issue to its agenda.

Council President Don Przybylinski scheduled a joint workshop between the Common Council and Park Board to discuss the matter Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the EOC room at City Hall.

In other business:

n Qualifying seniors and disabled residents could receive a helping hand in maintaining their yards if a new ordinance introduced by 4th Ward Councilman Sean Fitzpatrick passes. Listed on the agenda as “free yard and lawn care services for elderly and disabled residents,” he clarified that the specific name would be “Senior Lawn Care Relief.”

“It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up,” he said. “Some people in our community aren’t able to take care of major yard care issues, like at the beginning of the season after a heavy winter and we have tree limbs down or other debris that was washed up by the snow...

“At the beginning of the season and at the end of the season, I think we should provide certain residents – if they meet the qualifications – with assistance getting their yards under control. It’s a basic, overall neighborhood beautification, and just to help out people that can’t readily take care of these issues themselves, nor afford to with their own assistance.”

Fitzpatrick said he recognizes the logistics and financing need to be better defined. “I’m not proposing that we do some detailed yard manicuring, but running a rake across the yard, maybe running a mower or a weed whacker across so it’s manageable,” he said.

He spoke of his 80-year-old father and 90-year-old grandfather-in-law, and noted both prefer to tend to their yards themselves. However, he asked, if they were not there to do it, who would help their wives. “I think that the people who pay taxes in this city, and who have paid taxes for many years - I think we owe it to them.”

The council voted to table the issue indefinitely to finalize details.

n Councilman Johnny Stimley introduced an ordinance that would waive permit fees for city departments on city-owned projects. He said passing it would eliminate unnecessary movement of funds between departments.

n Fitzpatrick introduced another ordinance that calls for the payment of members of the Michigan City Commission for Women.

n Stimley, Carnes and Przybylinski introduced an ordinance that would appropriate $22,000 from the Boyd Development Fund to pay for engineering costs to repair the catwalk on the pier at Washington Park.

n Ryan Labis was voted the council’s appointee to the Michigan City Promise Scholarship Commission.

n The Common Council typically meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. However, because the local primary election will be the first Tuesday in May, the meeting has been scheduled for May 8.