After discussion, City agrees to put no-smoking issue to vote

For the second time in just three months, the Brady City Council again proposed an ordinance that, if approved, would eliminate smoking in all public facilities in the city of Brady. Despite the efforts of City Councilwoman Barbi Jones, who presented her concerns about second hand smoke, and after a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons concerning the issue and the economic impact it would have on the community, the recommendation was made by Councilman Donald Barley that the group table the item to allow the public to have a say in the decision. An issue that was previously voted down by the public in 1998, the ordinance “restricting tobacco smoking in city facilities and other public places” drew a packed house of local businessowners and concerned citizens Wednesday morning who oppose the ban and view the ordinance as an infringement on their rights. Mike Trollinger representing the McCulloch County Industrial Foundation (MCIF), was the first citizen to speak on behalf of area businesses. “This is a much larger issue than smoking,” he said. “I am opposed to this ordinance because it takes away the businessowner’s right to run their business the best way they see fit.” Trollinger stated that in his opinion, passing the ordinance would signal that the Council knows better how to operate a privately-owned business than the actual owner. “Don’t pass a law that ties the business owner’s hands,” he said. “This would not be a step forward, but a step backward.” Trollinger went on to note that larger cities such as Dallas, Plano, Austin and Fredericksburg have passed similar laws banning smoking in public facilities. He suggested that City of Brady officials look closer at related towns such as Mason, San Saba and Ballinger’all cities that have similar populations to Brady but no ordinance prohibiting smoking in public facilities. “We need less government intervention in our businesses and our lives, not more,” Trollinger said. “I don’t think this is right for this community.” Mrs. Jones suggested that if the “playing field” was level (meaning all businesses had to comply with the same ordinance), people would still frequent the businesses who claim that a no-smoking ordinance would hinder their operation and produce financial strain. She also based her reasoning for voting to pass the ordinance on health-related issues. She stated that she was elected to serve on the City Council to represent the citizens of Brady and a great number of those citizens are in favor of having an ordinance such as this one in place. People who currently refuse to give their business to restaurants and other facilities that allow smoking would be given the opportunity to do so in the future if the ordinance was passed. As a businessowner himself, Mayor Clarence Friar stated that he understands how businesses operate. “We’re not passing a law to not smoke. We’re just asking them not to when they go into a business.” Responding to Friar and Mrs. Jones’ comments, Trollinger said, “You’re saying that a businessowner can’t make their own decisions. I’m not willing to tell that businessowner what to do. My position is not with smoking and second-hand smoke. It’s telling business owners what they can and can’t do.” Trollinger further asked that before the City Council makes a decision that it conduct a public hearing to give the community a chance to voice their concerns. Another point made in the meeting was presented when area rancher Dickey Winters addressed the council. “I agree that it is not strictly a smoking issue,” he said. “It restricts the freedom of choice of a significant population of the community, and it violates the basic principals of free enterprise. “Don’t go in there if you’re worried about second-hand smoke. It’s a level playing field now. It will not be if you remove their rights. For goodness sake, do not tread on the rights of these people. The people of Brady have enough smarts and intelligence to go where they want to go.” Winters suggested that if the City Council was so sure that there was a market for no-smoking facilities, then they should go into business for themselves and reap those benefits. “Speak with your pocket book, not with your gavel and this ordinance,” he said. Local barbecue restaurant owner Chuck Dalchau also spoke with members of the City Council and stated that the “only way to do it right is to put it on the ballot and let the public decide.” Trollinger agreed with Dalchau and a large portion of those in attendance Wednesday morning stating, “I think we’re opening a can of worms here if we don’t take it to the voters.” Texas Corral owners Melba and Smokey Harris reported that 35-40 percent of the customers who frequent their restaurant in the southern part of Brady are truck drivers in route to another location. Through an in-house survey which he has conducted, Harris stated that the majority of those clients suggested that they wouldn’t make the trip through Brady if their right to smoke in a public facility was taken away. Harris went on to say that it will not only affect his restaurant sales, but diesel sales at the adjoining gas station as well as Wal-Mart and other area businesses. Harris suggested to Mrs. Jones that if the ordinance was passed and his restaurant was turned into a non-smoking facility, he’d be willing to sell his business to her because he felt for sure he’d have to file bankruptcy. After all remaining citizens who wished to voice their opinions were given the opportunity to address the City Council, Councilman Billy Patterson said, “I think it needs to be put on the ballot and put to a vote.” Barley agreed and made the motion that the item be tabled and reviewed later to give the local community a chance to have a say in the decision. In other business, the City Council voted to table the first reading of an ordinance of the City of Brady adopting the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget. According to Friar, the council jumped the gun and put the ordinance on the agenda too early. By law, the item must first be printed in the city’s official newspaper. The item will be published and placed back on the agenda for the next meeting. As an addendum to Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council voted to accept the Brady Lake policies and procedures as completed by Lake Committee members, Mrs. Jones, Trollinger, Glenn Miller and Sam McAnally. Barley suggested a few minor changes to the policy and procedures including an amendment to the operating hours at the lake marina as well as changes to the fees. “These policies and procedures follow the Texas Parks and Wildlife guidelines for water parks,” explained Taylor. Ordinances approved in Wednes-day’s meeting: ‘ The second reading of an ordinance amending the fiscal year 2002-2003 budget; ‘ The first reading of an ordinance adopting a dangerous dog policy (policy for dogs that are left to run loose and pose a threat, not designed for people who care for their animals properly); ‘ The first reading of an ordinance vacating portions of streets. According to City Manager Merle Taylor, the land surrounding the portion of street and alley is owned by the Brady Housing Authority and located in the area behind the Texas Department of Transportation building on the north side of Brady. The Housing Authority requested that the alley/portion of street not being utilized be vacated by the City of Brady for the purposes of adding a fence. If the ordinance is approved on all three readings, the portion of street and alley will be closed for all future access unless it is brought back to the Council at a later date. Having the area closed will allow the Housing Authority the opportunity to go in and build additional housing on the property. Because the Housing Authority is an entity of the City of Brady, the City Council is not legally required to approve a resolution for the item. City Secretary Christi McAnally stated that she had spoken with the city’s attorney and he concluded that it is legal for the process to be made official through ordinance readings. The three action items on the agenda as resolutions approving public utility easements and right-of-way agreements with the City of Brady and Winters Family Partnership, Ltd., Clay and Wendy Jones and John and Doris Jones were each approved. This purchase (for at least 1.396 acres of land and a right-of-way through the Winters property) was $23,750. The remaining two landowners agreeing to the easements and right-of-ways will be allowed four water meters off of the line. “That’s a total of four water meters between John Jones and Clay Jones, not four meters each,” said Taylor. Approval of the three resolutions will allow the City of Brady to proceed with the proposed water treatment plant and utilize land on each person’s property to route water lines from Brady Lake to various points in town. A separate resolution approved Wednesday was required to ratify the purchase and aviation agreement with the City of Brady and Cheryl Huffman Doan. “This will extend the runway at Curtis Field Airport another 500 feet,” explained Taylor. “The special commissioners (Ken Bull, Joey Ranne and Mike Barbour) set the price on the land (just over five acres) at $24,407. “There was also an advocation easement on some additional property,” Taylor noted. “This is an agreement that the land owners will not build any permanent structures to help protect the slopes of the planes coming in and out of the airport runway. There won’t be any obstacles to get in the way.”

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