In a 6-1 vote, with councilman Jay Higginbotham opposed, town council adopted an anti-tobacco policy asking the public to “refrain from using tobacco products within 50-feet of playgrounds, courts, ball fields, pavilions and bleachers.”
It is the first locality inCentral Virginiato adopt a formal tobacco-free policy.
Signs that read: “Please no tobacco use” due to community values, healthy and safe environments, will now be posted at town-owned facilities.
The proposal, which does not have the force of law behind it, initially inspired controversy in March with residents concerned about personal rights. But the very same issue garnered no speakers at Tuesday night’s public hearing, motivating council to approve the proposal.
According to the Dillon Rule, which applies to all Virginia localities, Altavista does not have the legal authority to prohibit outdoor tobacco use or enforce such a policy.
“I have some reservations because I was a smoker once too but I think this is fair,” Mayor Rudy Burgess said. “As you know we can’t make you do it, all we can do is ask you to do it.”
The idea was pitched in February by the town’s recreation committee, which was looking at long-range policies and youth sports.
According to the committee, tobacco use has created trash problems as well as health challenges in a town that is a haven for little league baseball fans.
Town staff will now meet with various organizations to inform them of the policy and will periodically visit activity sites to monitor compliance and “promote awareness.”
Council also unanimously approved a 5 percent utility rate increase affecting the town’s water and sewer rates. No one spoke in favor of, or against, the increase at the evening’s public hearing.
“I think it reflects tonight that nobody’s speaking against it that they feel like we are fair, we are trying to be fair,” Burgess said as he closed the public hearing.
Water rates will increase by about .09 cents per 1,000 gallons and sewer rates will increase by about .13 cents per 1,000 gallons.
Rates were increased according to a multi-year plan designed to make the utility self-sustainable.
“It’s something that we’ve needed to do and we’ve got to do,” Burgess said.