Council opts not to stop smokers from public puffing

BAMBERG – Smoking in public places will not be banned in the city of Bamberg, at least for now.

Bamberg City Council members chose not to move forward with a proposed ordinance that would have made smoking in restaurants, public buildings and other public venues illegal during its regular meeting Monday night.

The proposed ban had been a point of contention for several months, with residents both for and against appearing at council meetings as well as at two public meetings held in April to express their concerns.

The proposed ordinance was modeled after the City of Greenville’s ordinance, primarily because that ordinance has survived court challenges.

“My personal feeling is it will hurt Bamberg more than help it,” Councilwoman Ella Bamberg said.

Councilwoman Janeth Walker, who headed the working committee on the ordinance, was also against it.

“I’ve been inundated with numerous phone calls against such an ordinance. I’ve put a lot of work in it and brought it to this point, but I can’t put forth a motion for the ordinance at this time,” Walker said.

“I’m disappointed,” said Diane Wilson, representing the South Carolina African American Tobacco Control Network and the Fresh Air Everywhere Coalition. “They talk about people not wanting it, but there were many who did.”

Wilson went on to say there are municipalities smaller than Bamberg that have enacted the ordinance with little ensuing trouble.

Also Monday night, council members heard from Paul Shepherd of the U.S. Census Bureau who requested their assistance in the upcoming 2010 Census count.

Shepherd stressed that Census information is confidential and personal, noting that identifying information cannot be released or revealed. Census workers must take an oath to that effect, he said, adding that releasing personal information gathered by the Census is a federal offense.

The theme for the 2010 Census is “10 + 10 in 2010.” Shepherd said the theme means the form will take approximately 10 minutes to complete and has only 10 questions. There is no ‘long form’ for Census data collection in 2010, he said.

The official Census Day is April 1, 2010. Households will begin receiving forms in March 2010, and they will have several weeks to complete and return the forms, Shepherd said. Enumerators who come out next summer to call on those households that do not return their forms, he said.

In other business, Town Clerk Bruce Watson discussed the final finance report for the 2008-2009 fiscal year that was presented to council members. He said the city received about $60,000 less in tax revenue than it had anticipated and also received less money from the state’s Aid To Subdivisions fund, with a bigger cut to that funding expected during the new fiscal year.

Watson said the city finished the year approximately $150,000 over budget, but he noted that Bamberg is in good fiscal shape, with more than $700,000 available in reserves. Final figures will be available once the city’s annual fiscal audit is completed, Watson said.

Also Monday, council:

* Approved the 2009-2010 Fire Contract with Bamberg County. Bamberg will receive $50,500 from the county to assist it with fire protection services.

* Opted to move ahead with developing a Master Plan for the city at the urging of Lower Savannah Council of Governments and the S.C. Department of Transportation.

* Voted to move forward with resurfacing the tennis courts at Foster Park. The city has a verbal commitment from Bamberg School District One to assist with the estimated $20,000 to $28,000.00 cost, and it will also ask the Board of Public Works to assist with the project.


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