WOONSOCKET – After hearing residents voice concerns about enforcement of a related $100 fine and also general support for its health implications for children, the City Council on Monday granted first passage to a new ordinance banning smoking in city parks.
The five members present all voted to support passage of the measure, which will require a second approval to become law. Council President John Ward left for a personal commitment just prior to the vote but indicated he too favored the smoking ban, and City Councilman Albert G. Brien was not present due to illness.
Councilman Mark Dubois said he was in full support of the ban and noted that the School Committee had taken a similar step banning smoking on school property and at school events several years ago when he was a member that panel.
Councilman Roger Jalette offered that he could see both sides of the issue, having been a smoker himself from the age of 16 years old to the age of 32. “I finally realized I couldn’t stand the smell of smoke,” Jalette said.
Other cities around the country are taking similar action and Jalette said that is “because they want to better their communities. That is what this will do even though it may ruffle some feathers,” he said.
Moreau asked members of the Woonsocket Prevention Coalition, which had sought passage of the ban for community health concerns, if the ordinance allows for a designated smoking area in the parks and was told by the group’s Executive Director Lisa Carcifaro that it did not.
While voicing his own support for the ban, Councilman Robert Moreau noted he has been approached by members of the East Woonsocket Little League organization asking for such a measure to help guide parents of participating children.
The national Little League organization prohibits smoking at Little League fields but “they do have some trouble with enforcement,” he said.
The proposed ordinance does have the $100 fine to back its prohibition, but Woonsocket Prevention Coalition Carol Frisk said she hopes a positive move toward public education of the ban would resolve most of the concerns regarding that potential cost to violators. The ordinance would take effect 11 days after second passage and Mayor Leo Fontaine said signs noting the rule will go up at the parks noting the new rule.
The council also voted 6 to 0 with Ward participating to approve a new Main Street redevelopment plan that will help set goals for future improvements of the city’s central business district. The vote came with amendments eliminating some addendum items suggesting a lowering of parking requirements for resident development and first floor residential uses in primarily commercial properties that had raised criticism from some businesses and organizations such as the Stadium Theatre.