Council Workshops Non-Smoking Policy, Mound House

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Up In Smoke!

A non-smoking policy for Town property and a progress report on the historic Mound House were the discussion items for The Fort Myers Beach Council Workshop on Monday morning, February 6.

Council examined the potential non-smoking policy for the Bay Oaks Campus, Mound House, and Newton Park, but the conversation quickly expanded that focus to other Town-owned properties, whether this should be a smoke-free versus tobacco-free issue, and if it should be a Town policy or ordinance.

“We need to determine if this will be smoke-free versus tobacco-free, as the former would include waterpipes and e-cigarettes,” said Council member Anita Cereceda. “Personally, I would like to see none of it,” commented Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros. Council member Joanne Shamp looked at other municipalities as well as the Fort Myers Beach personnel manual and noted that “we already have some restricted areas, and you cannot smoke in Town vehicles. I would like to expand this to all Town-owned property, as we should try to promote health. All Town-owned property should be smoke free including e-cigarettes and water vapors.”

Council member Tracey Gore noted that “Fountain Park is missing from the list. I agree any Town-owned property should be under the smoke-free policy; I think that is a great idea.” Mayor Dennis Boback asked what would occur when the Town leases these sites to outside groups, like weddings at the Mound House and Newton Park, or public concerts at Fountain Park. Mound House Museum Director Alison Giesen replied that national museum regulations state there are no open flames in historic structures, therefore staff and volunteers already enforce a No Smoking policy at the Mound House and Newton Park.

Cereceda says the issue is bigger than that, as the policy must address Times Square, “and Fountain Park is now a little Times Square, as removing the fountain makes it a real gathering place. I am not, however, a big fan of creating unenforceable legislation and I don’t know how you enforce this in Times Square and Fountain Park.”

Not Out Of Touch

Maureen Rischitelli, Director of Administrative Services, explained that the initial policy covers Bay Oaks, the Mound House, and Newton Park to see how it will work, then she can return it to Council in an expanded format: “This is Part A, and we can bring it back as Part B and C.” The Mayor, however, was “not in agreement with that. Why bring it back 2 or 3 more times and take an extra 6 months? I agree with Rexann that we prohibit everything, because e-cigarettes blow more smoke than a regular cigarette and I don’t want someone blowing that in my face, even if it is just vapor. It is a bad example for children who do not understand the difference, and these products still have nicotine. This is already the policy in a lot of places, so we are not out of touch by doing this.”

Interim Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert advised Council that “what you have today is a policy but you should make that into an ordinance because a policy does not provide code enforcement like an ordinance.” Shamp would like to expand this to include Town Hall and the two water tower facilities that have office space. The Mayor cautioned, however, that “you can adopt all the ‘feel good’ stuff you want, but what good does it do if you cannot enforce it?” Cereceda said, “Most smokers already know they live in a mostly smoke-free world, and if you ask them to refrain, they usually respectfully do not smoke. Let’s pass the policy, then see if we actually need the ordinance.”

Council instructed staff to continue with the proposed policy to become smoke-free and to include Town Hall and its water tower areas. The Mayor would like to add the dinghy docks, with Gore asking about the kayak launches “that kids use all the time. This is a great first step!”

“Go, Go, Go!”

Town Council next reviewed the Mound House strategic plan in a joint session with the Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board (CELCAB), including members Barbara Hill, Betty Simpson, Ceel Spuhler and Lorrie Wolf.

Barbara Hill reminded Town Council that “since the Mound House opened to the public a little over a year ago, we achieved every element of the initial management plan, so we needed a new strategic action plan to move forward. We did a long-range planning seminar with an outside consultant in November and December of 2016, and want to discuss this with Council for your review and hopefully, approval.”

Gore said “everything I read in here is good. I have full confidence in CELCAB and how the Mound House is being run. Everything is working the way it is supposed to, and Alison – I cannot thank you enough – you do a great job!” Shamp agreed that “the Mound House is a fabulous facility. If we can ever get it on the National Register of Historic Places, I say ‘Go, Go, Go!’ That is in our Comp Plan and would be such a feather in our cap as a Town.”

Cereceda reminded everyone that “we talked a lot about the word ‘enjoyment’ because that was a Mound House stumbling to the adjacent residential neighborhood in the beginning, and now that neighborhood’s enjoyment of the Mound House is a key to its success. Neighborhoods change; there are maybe two properties owned by the same people since the Mound House inception and that turnover will continue. The Town has policies to protect our neighborhoods and we will do that – that is a No-Brainer!” The Vice Mayor added that she “is a big lover of the Mound House and thrilled with the progress – it is above and beyond what I expected.”

With no further discussion, Town Council expected to add Mound House Strategic Plan Approval to its Consent Agenda at its upcoming afternoon Council Meeting, with the Workshop adjourning at 10:03 a.m.

Gary Mooney