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Smoking debate still smoldering

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

The crowd was late in arriving though some persons eventually showed and discussion continued on the issue of a proposed smoking ban in Parkville.

On Tuesday night, the Parkville Board of Aldermen received comments from the public about a proposed ordinance to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in the city. No vote was taken; that is scheduled to happen at the board’s meeting on April 7.

Gerry Richardson, mayor, opened the public hearing at 6 p.m. and no members of the public were present in the audience.

“It looks like the public has chosen not to participate and I'll choose to take that as a good sign,” said Richardson. “We've had a lot of input from the public. There is a segment of citizens who are disappointed with the lack of stringency (in the ordinance). But everyone at the end of the day said they prefer to see this over nothing. The ordinance now is not in accordance with my personal preferences.”

“All I can say is if the topic was taken up four years ago we would have an absolute ban by now,” said Richardson. “I feel this is a reasonable compromise.”

Some of the board members spoke about the proposed ordinance.

“This is not easy, there are compelling arguments either way,” said Jim Brooks, alderman. “Overall I think we are doing the responsible thing.”

“We are beating this to death,” said Marc Sportsman, alderman. “There are few things more important than the preservation of health in the workplace.”

Several members of the public arrived to speak to the board after the hearing had started.

“Thank you for moving this forward,” said Rita Weighill, vice president of communications with Park University. “Park University endorsed the previous ordinance and although the proposed ordinance does not provide the same protection, the university would like to go on the record supporting the proposed ordinance.”

Another person spoke to the board representing the Rancho Grande restaurant along 45 Highway.

“Since the smoking ban in Kansas City, our business has increased and our guests are happy to come in,” said Amanda Cox, representing Rancho Grande. “We would like to have at least three years to allow smoking.”

Cox explained that when the construction on 45 Highway begins to widen the roadway, then traffic will be restricted and they expect to get fewer customers and would like to have three years instead of two years before the ban begins.

Parkville resident Harry Sievers spoke to the board.

“I am concerned with the workers. From 1952 to 2002, I had to work in smoking environments and it has given me breathing problems. I worked in the control tower at KCI and the smoke would be so thick you couldn't see across the room. Smokers create a dirty environment. Smokers are not clean by themselves.”

The building manager for the American Legion Hall in downtown Parkville also spoke to the board. Terry Brown told the board the Legion is willing to live with almost everything in the ordinance. The only issue he brought up was that it appears to be a contradiction in the ordinance.

Brown pointed out that under the definition of a membership association it restricts admission to “members of the association and their guests.” However, later in the ordinance it describes that smoking areas may be allowed in membership associations for “members and their expressly invited guests.”

Brown asked that the board remove the portion about “expressly invited” from the latter portion of the ordinance.

Brown also addressed the issue of how they would continue to have employees within the smoking area of the hall.

“If you allow smoking in any establishment no one can exist without employees,” said Brown. “We would probably do as the casinos do and have employees sign an affidavit to work in the bar area.”

The city staff may make some changes to the ordinance and the board is scheduled to vote on whether to accept the ordinance at the next meeting on Tuesday, April 7.

In another matter, the aldermen approved a resolution of support of the Southern Platte County Ambulance District (SPCAD) and the services provided by the Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust (MAST).

The issue stems from a study being conducted by Kansas City to possibly consolidate the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) with MAST.

The SPCAD approached the Parkville board and asked for a resolution opposing the consolidation.

Bobby Kincaid, SPCAD president, told the board that the ambulance district had high standards and MAST continued to meet them.

Doug Hooten, the executive director of MAST, told the board that MAST has been in existence since 1979 and is operated as a trust and could be consolidated if the trust's board voted to consolidate with the KCFD.

Richardson asked if there would be any impact on the ambulance district and Parkville if MAST was dissolved.

Hooten responded that the contracts have “assumption clauses” and would be taken over by the KCFD.

“I guess you wouldn't see a change,” said Hooten.

The board voted to adopt a resolution not specifically opposing the consolidation.

The resolution states: “the Board of Aldermen for the City of Parkville wishes to go on record in support of South Platte County Ambulance District and the services of 'MAST.'”

The board approved the resolution with a vote of 5-0. Aldermen Marvin Ferguson, Gia McFarlane, and Jeff Bay were absent from the meeting.


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