Nitro Leaders Look to Sidestep Kanawha Smoking Ban

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — If you don’t like the rules in one county, just move to the county next door.

Leaders in Nitro are hoping to move out from under the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and merge with the Putnam County Health Department. This move is due to the Kanawha County smoking ban and Tri-State Racetrack and Casino’s claim that it’s costing them millions.

Nitro passed an ordinance a couple of months ago allowing smoking at the racetrack. But rather than face a costly legal fight, Nitro City Councilman Craig Matthews says the better route is to merge with the Putnam County Health Department. Part of Nitro is in Putnam County.

At a health board meeting Tuesday night, Councilman Matthews laid out a plan for the merger. He says West Virginia law allows a municipality to create its own health department or merge with nearby county. He says it would be too expensive for the city of Nitro to form its own health department, but a merger would be viable.

Nitro says they’ve lost $200,000 in taxes at Tri-State Racetrack due to the smoking ban. Nitro is willing to give Putnam County $140,000 to hire two new health inspectors to pick the additional work in Nitro. In exchange, the racetrack, all bars and fraternal organizations in Nitro could allow smoking.

Putnam County Health officials didn’t reject the plan, but they have a lot of questions and concerns. One issue is all of the additional health services that they would have to provide to the citizens of Nitro.

Health officials say they’ll have to look at additional information before making a decision. They also say they want to hear from the public on the issue.

Councilman Matthews says if this plan doesn’t work, Nitro will either have to create its own health department or take on the legal fight from Kanawha County if Tri-State allows smoking.


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