Heads butt over Crookston Sports Center smoking policy

Crookston Park Board member Larry Brekken has a bone to pick with the city Ways & Means Committee, which, in December, modified the board’s recommendation to prohibit smoking on the Crookston Sports Center property entirely, and instead approved a policy that would create a designated smoking area on the east edge of the parking lot.

“I’m tired of caving into the minority,” Brekken said at Monday’s park board meeting at city hall. “People aren’t going to like it because I’m stepping on toes, but I don’t care.”

Apparently, Brekken isn’t alone. When he voiced his displeasure Monday, City Administrator Aaron Parrish said a city council member came forward in the wake of the December committee meeting and asked that the CSC smoking policy be put on an upcoming committee Ways & Means Committee agenda for further discussion.

The entire council is represented on the committee, and December’s vote on the motion for a CSC policy that incorporates a designated smoking area outside was 6-3, with council members Keith Mykleseth, Guy Martin and Frank Lindgren opposed.

Short of a complete ban on smoking on the CSC property, Brekken said he’d be open to considering a policy that prohibits smoking on the site when youth activities are taking place, but allows it in a designated area when non-youth activities are occurring. That policy is similar to the one at Highland Complex, which permits smoking during evening, adult activities like softball leagues.

But Parrish has said that, with probably 90 percent of the activities at the CSC to be youth-related, and with there being instances where youth and adult activities might take place simultaneously in different rinks in the building, such a policy would be difficult to “decipher,” much less enforce.

Wayne Melbye, who represents the council on the park board, said he essentially agrees with Brekken, but added that the “sad reality is that if you make it no smoking everywhere out there, they’re still going to smoke, whether it’s in this corner of the lot, in that corner of the lot, or on their way to the door. And they’re going to squish their butts into the ground and leave a mess all over the place.” And, he wondered, “How are you going to enforce a policy like that without hiring someone to constantly enforce it?”

“Sure, it’s tough to enforce, but we should still set the standard high,” Brekken said. “Why do we lower our standards all the time?”

Melbye said it’s not about lowering standards, but accommodating the public. “If you want the public to come to this public building, then you need to make some effort to accommodate them,” he said. “We’re not going to promote smoking; we just don’t want them right outside the door like they are at the arena now.”

Melbye is a firm believer that if smokers are allowed a designated place to smoke on the corner of the parking lot that’s home to ash and butt receptacles, even if it requires a trek through the wind and cold, that most will make the effort to smoke there.

Brekken’s not convinced of that, and neither is Phyllis Hagen, administrative assistant for Parks & Recreation. She predicted Monday that smokers will seek some shelter from the wind and cold by trying to get as close to the building as possible.

The park board didn’t take any official action in response to the committee’s smoking policy recommendation. Melbye said board members will have a chance to further voice any concerns they have at the next discussion, which hasn’t been scheduled.

If the current policy holds up – Parrish said he wants it resolved before the Jan. 30 CSC grand opening – signage will be apparent in and outside of the CSC, directing smokers to their designated area, which is estimated to be at least 100 feet from the building.

“I think that’s the only way that it got through the committee, because it was so far removed from the building,” Mayor Dave Genereux said.

“I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure if we don’t give smokers a spot to go to,” Melbye said. “We give them one, and then it’s their responsibility to do it right, or someone will report them.”

source: www.crookstontimes.com

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