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Willmar panel recommends council revise tobacco-free policy in parks

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will consider revising the tobacco-free policy that prohibits tobacco use in city parks during youth activities. The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building.

The revision would expand the policy and "not allow the use of tobacco products on or in city-owned parks and buildings, except within the confines of a vehicle in a designated parking area.''

The revision was proposed by the Community Education and Recreation Joint Powers Board and was referred to the council's Public Works/Safety Committee. The committee discussed the revision this week and voted to send it to the council for consideration.

Steve Brisendine, director of Community Education and Recreation, and Bobbi Jo Berg of Kandiyohi County Public Health discussed the city's tobacco-free policy with the committee. The policy, established by the council in 2003, prohibits tobacco use in city parks during youth activities.

Berg said tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Committee member Ron Christianson, who is not a big advocate for government rules, spoke against the revision. "Where do we stop?'' he asked. "Why not provide a place for smokers?''

Rick Fagerlie, council liaison to the Community Education and Recreation Board, said he did not have a problem with the revision. He said a lot of people opposed smoking in restaurants and smoking bans make going to a restaurant more enjoyable.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck said the revision is a way to modify people's behavior. "They may not like it, but it benefits everyone,'' he said. "They can sit in the car and smoke all they want.''

The council on Monday will receive the report of the Public Works Committee meeting and will also receive a report from the Finance Committee.

In other business, the council will receive comments from the public during the open forum and will receive a presentation on completion of the wastewater treatment project from Ken Sedmak of Donohue and Associates.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150