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Clayton bans smoking in public parks

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday banning smoking in all Clayton County Parks and Recreation facilities, including public parks.

The new regulation, which is effective immediately, makes it unlawful to "smoke or use tobacco products, including but not limited to snuff and chewing tobacco, within a [Clayton County] park," according to the resolution.

Smoking was already prohibited in all county buildings, said Detrick Stanford, director of the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department. "One of the things we try to do, through initiatives and through the board support, is to heighten the quality of life in the county. Health and wellness is important to us," said Stanford.

"So this is an aggressive effort, that's supported by the board, to make sure that ultimately we're really taking care of the health issues of our community, primarily as it pertains to parks," he said.

County Commissioner Sonna Singleton was a proponent of the smoking ban. "He [Stanford] brought it to me. I thought it was a great idea, so I supported it," she said.

The smoking ban was added to an ordinance which already prohibits selling, possessing, or consuming alcoholic beverages within a park, unless a special permit for consumption of beer and wine has been issued by the county.

Stanford said the county will begin an aggressive campaign to inform the public about the smoking ban. In addition to posting no-smoking signs at county parks, the Parks and Recreation Department will provide information on the county's web site, and at meetings of county-sponsored groups and neighborhood associations, according to information provided to county commissioners.

Stanford said violators of the smoking ban could be fined, but would likely receive a warning first.

"Ideally, the spirit of what we're trying to get accomplished here is really to educate the constituency. Ultimately we're not trying to penalize anybody," he said. "What we're really trying to do is educate [people] on the effects of second-hand smoke."

Stanford did not have information on the amount of a possible fine for violating the ban.

According to county documents describing the purpose of the smoking ban, the goal is to "protect people from the effects of second-hand smoke, which include an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema and other diseases."

In other business during Tuesday night's commission meeting, Clayton County Water Authority General Manager Mike Thomas updated the board on the authority's compliance with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's requirements for water supply and conservation, waste water management, and watershed management plans.

Thomas said the authority recently received a letter from the EPD stating that it is in good standing with its water management plans.

Also during the commission meeting, the board approved the appointment of former Clayton County School Board Chairperson Ericka Davis to fill a position on the county's Community Service Board.

"I appointed her to a board position on our Community Service Board, which is an independent board that serves us a great deal in the mental health arena," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.

Bell said the Community Service Board's chairperson, Dianne Jennings, resigned from the board earlier in the day, creating the vacancy.

"I think she [Davis] is thoroughly qualified," said Bell. "She expressed a desire to serve there, and I eagerly appointed her to that board. It's very meaningful to us in the county, and she comes at a time when we need some new-age thinking in that area," he said.