Conversation begins: Should city parks in Pierz be tobacco-free?

Pierz Council hears proposal for a policy

No decision has been made, to make city parks in Pierz tobacco free, but the conversation started Monday.

Megan Cummings with Morrison County Public Health, three Healy High School students and a Pierz resident, brought the idea to the City Council.

Cummings said using a grant through the Community Health Board that is education-based, they wanted to get cities thinking more about tobacco-free parks and policies. The policy would include a ban on the use of e-cigarettes as well.

Katie Boser and her husband, Jerron, moved to Pierz to live a healthy lifestyle she said. They and their two small children enjoy going to the Pierz Park.

She recounted an incident where they went for the day, but didn’t stay for long because a group of people were smoking nearby. After the family settled in another location, the group moved closer to them, so they left.

Boser said she had recently visited Caledonia, where this type of policy was in effect.

“It just makes common sense,” she said.

During Monday’s Pierz City Council meeting (from left): Megan Cummings of Morrison County Public Health, Pierz Healy High students Hunter Popp, Alex Gross and Austin Dickmann, and resident Katie Boser, presented the idea of making city parks tobacco-free areas.
During Monday’s Pierz City Council meeting (from left): Megan Cummings of Morrison County Public Health, Pierz Healy High students Hunter Popp, Alex Gross and Austin Dickmann, and resident Katie Boser, presented the idea of making city parks tobacco-free areas.

The three high school students are members of the Encouraging Positive Influence and Choices (EPIC) program, and had all taken a pledge to be drug, alcohol and tobacco free during high school, Cummings said.

Each of the students, junior Hunter Popp and sophomores Alex Gross and Austin Dickmann, went through points for the Council, including the effects of secondhand smoke on others visiting the park or attending events.

Other points included the “several trillion” cigarette butts that litter sidewalks, benches and other local areas each year. Their data stated that butts are the single most collected items during bench cleanups internationally.

In addition to dangerous health effects on animals or children who may ingest a cigarette butt, the butts can also make their way into storm drains, affecting water, the group told the Council.

Another danger from discarded cigarettes is the possibility of fire and property loss, they said.

“With a policy in place, what we are proposing or suggesting is what has shown to be effective in other communities,” Cummings said.

The policy would be self-regulating, she said.

“We’re not talking fines of any sort. It would be really communicating and reaching out via signage in the community,” Cummings said.

“Policies reinforce the message that tobacco use is unhealthy and unnecessary behavior,” she said.

If a policy were to be put in place, Cummings said the request is that it be citywide. With funds from the grant, the city would be provided up to five “tobacco free” signs for each park.

While the Council thanked the group for their presentation, no one commented that evening on the possibility of instituting a policy.

Mayor Toby Egan said Wednesday, he hadn’t given it a lot of consideration yet.

“There’s a fine line to consider. People who use tobacco, pay their fair share of taxes, too” he said. “They pay to help take care of those parks and fund everything as well. I know I would not be interested in doing it at Pierz’ Main Park where we have campers and golfers and things of that nature. Maybe we could look at doing some type of designated areas that are smoke-free there. I would not go for a complex-wide area.”

Noting there are three parks in Pierz, Egan said one consideration for a totally smoke-free park would be the Legion Park behind City Hall.

As far as Billig Park on Main Street, where the Veterans Memorial was erected, Egan said he would not be in favor of making that park tobacco-free.

“I’m not going to tell veterans who have served our country in battle or in any other way that they certainly can’t go into a spot designated for them and can’t use tobacco,” he said. “To me, that would kind of be a slap in the face for those folks, and I wouldn’t do it.”

Egan said the Council may discuss the topic at its workshop, Tuesday.

“That’s going to be a City Council decision, and how far they want to look into it or what they want to do with it,” he said.

Pierz City Council Briefs

In other business Monday, the Pierz City Council:

  • Approved a liquor license transfer from Chad Swaser of Patrick’s Bar and Grill to Andrew and Tabitha Maher, who are purchasing the establishment. The Council approved pro-rating the license fee, which will expire June 30, 2017. The total fee for on-sale, off-sale and Sunday liquor for a year is $2,300. The pro-rated amount is $1,231.02, Jan. 1 – June 30, 2017;
  • Set Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:45 p.m. as the date and time for the public hearing regarding changes to the city’s liquor license ordinance, which would no longer allow a 2 a.m. license. Although it is not required, the Council wanted public input. This will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by the city’s truth in taxation meeting;
  • Approved the city’s liability insurance, which remains the same as last year;
  • Learned about 30 to 40 slogans had been submitted for the city’s slogan contest;
  • Set Dec. 20 as a tentative meeting date for the Electric Committee. The Committee will discuss electronic meters, leased from Minnesota Power. The meters would alleviate the need for staff to physically read meters and can be shut off by simply pressing a button, said City Administrator Nicole Nordlund;
  • Rescheduled the Dec. 26 Council meeting to Tuesday, Dec. 27, as City Hall is closed Dec. 26; and
  • Set Tuesday at 6 p.m. as the date and time for a Council workshop to discuss a variety of issues. It is open to the public.

The next regular meeting of the Pierz City Council will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12, at City Hall.