Councilman ĎRamí Ramchandran wants signs and brightly colored tape seperating areas where visitors and employees can and canít smoke on the grounds of the St. Charles Parish Courthouse. And he believes the state should provide funding to purchase shelters to protect smokers so they wonít get rained on or, in winter, too cold.
The parish had to create new smoking policies because the Louisiana Smokefree Air Act says smoking is not allowed in any public building.
"I want signs posted and some type of taped area marked off that says 'No Smoking' in front of the courthouse near the section of the building facing the River Road out of respect of our children and on either side of the courthouse," Ramchandran told the Herald-Guide.
"We don't want children passing by seeing adults smoke, that's setting a bad example, but employees and residents who still want to smoke should have some type of protection from inclement weather," Ramchandran says.
Ramchandran voted against a proposal at the council meeting on Feb. 5 that reads "...smoking materials is prohibited in all portions of any exterior door of parish-owned/operated facilities and within 50 feet of any exterior door of parish-owned operated facilities and no smoking permitted on the front veranda of the courthouse building," because he says areas where smoking isn't allowed haven't been clearly identified by the parish and adequate shelter for smokers isn't available.
"We keep telling people 50 feet away and that's just not enough information because people are still smoking where they shouldn't be," he continues.
Ramchadran would like to see benches with the glass partitions around them at each public building in the parish for employees or residents that smoke, a design similar to benches at bus stops in Jefferson Parish.
"We already have some benches on either side of the courthouse where smoking is allowed, so people who smoke can sit down but they are not covered," Ramchandran says.
"The State of Louisiana's smoking policy isn't fair for those who smoke."
Ramchandran estimates between 20 and 30 parish employees would benefit from the benches purchased and being placed at the courthouse, but says he will leave it up to the supervisors of the parish facilities to decide if they want some type of shelter for their employees who smoke.
Ramchandran says the estimated cost per bench is around $2,500.
"It will probably cost close $34,000 to supply every location in the parish with the protected benches and I feel it should be an individual decision by the supervisor in that building if they want to get one for their employees that smoke," Ramchandran says.
"If the prisoners are allowed to smoke beneath a shelter then why shouldn't our parish employees be allowed the same opportunity?"
Ramchandran says effective 2008; the state's smoking band policy will take away smoking privileges from prisoners.
"Right now the people in jail can smoke, but in about 11 more months they won't have the opportunity," Ramchandran says.
Currently parish employees and residents are allowed to smoke inside the courthouse, on the first floor near the back entrance, underneath a breeze way and an air vent purchased by the parish sucks the smoke out so it doesn't harm people walking by, but if the ordinance passes at the next meeting, everyone will have to smoke outdoors.
"I know that if you are caught smoking where you are not supposed to, a St. Charles Parish Sheriff's deputy can give you a warning first and then a ticket," Ramchandran says.
The St. Charles Parish Council will meet again on Feb. 26.
|Photo: Shonna Riggs|