MOUNT VERNON — Persons who use electronic smoking devices in the city will now have to follow the same rules as tobacco smokers.
City Council gave final approval to the measure including “vaping” in the smoking ordinance, but first they amended the measure to eliminate provisions prohibiting the sale of electronic smoking devices to “young adults,” meaning persons between the age of 18 and 21.
Tami Ruhl from the Knox County Health Department was the only person to testify at the public hearing held on the measure before the regular meeting, and she was there mainly to answer questions council may have had about earlier information the department had presented.
In response to a question from Chris Menapace, she did not know to what extent the department would or could be involved in enforcement, as the Health Department in Columbus is in charge of enforcement. Council seemed more concerned about getting the vaping regulations in line with the tobacco rules, and said they could take up issues like raising the age of tobacco purchases to 21 or the grandfather clause allowing tobacco shops already established to allow smoking under certain conditions (raised by Sam Barone), to wait until a later date.
The so-called “Tobacco 21” idea had been mentioned in earlier testimony, but indicated they would be willing to talk about it when the Health Department has decided its own position and could present more information to the council.
Council also gave final approval to two other measures on the agenda: An ordinance accepting the vacation of two undeveloped sections of alley and an undeveloped section of Ridgely Street in the Elmwood Place subdivision, and the ordinance altering the definitions in the Transient Occupancy Tax ordinance to include operations with only one unit being rented.
The so-called bed tax now falls in line with county regulation and notices will be sent to the people operating businesses who have not paid the tax in the past.
The Elmwood vacation will allow Lifepoint Church to erect a new building on the site, but church spokesman Bill Pursel said they do not have a timeline or plans worked out yet.
Council approved resolutions authorizing the auditor to make supplemental appropriations, most of which involved payrolls in the budget for the Victim’s Advocate in the Law Director’s Office; and to transfer funds in several accounts, most related to water and wastewater funds, including some initial expenses for setting up the FlexNet program, which will allow for fully remote readings of water meters.
Council gave second reading to the measure to reduce enforcement hours of parking in the downtown business district. Councilman Mike Hillier said he would have more information on what downtown businesses think of the idea before council considers the measure for final approval at the next meeting.
During the final comment period of the meeting, Mayor Richard Mavis informed council that the cities of Marion, and possibly Delaware, may try to “hold hostage” renewal of the four-county solid waste district agreement, due to be voted on in January, by making their agreement contingent on being paid more by the district to subsidize their municipal trash collection operations. He has agreed to serve on a district committee to try to find a solution to the situation.
Menapace asked if, at the beginning of the year, council could get back to work on the vacant property ordinances. He asked if anyone other than the committee chair could schedule a meeting on the subject.
Nancy Vail, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee, bristled at the implied accusation of blocking the legislation, saying she had serious issues with some of the provisions Menapace has proposed, indicating more arguments will be likely when the issue is revived.
Longitude Avenue resident Scott Gallogly addressed council, expressing opposition to the possible rezoning of 197 Mansfield Road to allow a recovery housing operation there. Safety-Service Director Joel Daniels said the owner has been served with a notice of a zoning violation an the next step is up to the owner, whether that is to appeal his ruling to the Board of Zoning Appeals, apply for a zoning change to the Planning Commission or some other action.
Menapace also said he has been working on a proposal for a “single carrier” trash collection plan, at least in the areas with brick streets, to reduce damage to the brick streets from the heavy garbage trucks.
Several council members issued tributes to Conard “Dude” Conway, who died at the end of last week at the age of 96. He was a former council member and president of council.