After repeated complaints about people violating the statewide indoor smoking ban — and the businesses that allow them to do it — Effingham County officials are hoping to make people and businesses pay for their indiscretions. On Monday, the County Board’s Legislative Committee of the Whole voted 6-0 to recommend an ordinance that would mandate financial penalties for violation of the smoking ban.
According to the ordinance reviewed Monday, individuals who smoke in public places may be fined $100 for a first violation and $250 for subsequent violations. Those who allow smoking in their place of business, or fail to post signage or remove ashtrays, may face fines of $250 for a first offense, and $500 for a second offense within one year. Moreover, those cited a third or subsequent time could be fined up to $2,500 per day if the infraction is not corrected beyond a specified time.
On top of that, businesses that allow smoking could face license suspension or termination, if a license is held. First offenders could be subject to a one-day suspension in addition to a $500 fine; second offenders face a $1,000 fine and two-day suspension; and third offenders could be fined $2,500 and have their license pulled for one week.
A fourth violation, according to the ordinance, could lead to license termination.
Committee member David Campbell said the county health department has been receiving a number of complaints about violation of the law.
“There’s been a lot of people who have been thumbing their noses at the smoking ban,” Campbell said. “By targeting the smokers as well as the establishment, we’re trying to address both issues.”
The full board will consider the issue at its meeting next Monday.
Also Monday, the board heard from Effingham County Dive-Rescue Team Commander Terry Trueblood, who proposed an ordinance that would enable the county to recover costs involved in rescuing motorists from high water.
Trueblood said the ordinance would be aimed at motorists who do “silly stuff,” as he put it, such as driving through standing water more than six inches deep when the water is clearly visible.
“We’re just trying to prevent folks from going through standing water,” he said.
Costs would range from $500 to remove a vehicle from the water to $1,000 for rescue of someone who was stranded after driving into high water.
The board tabled action on the ordinance, pending review by Sheriff John Monnet and State’s Attorney Ed Deters.
Also Monday, the committee recommended:
• A resolution allowing the county to pay $11,000 for continued participation in the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Program.
• Moving the quarterly Public Safety Committee meeting to the first Thursday after the full board meeting.
• Raising marriage or civil union fees from $20 to $50 per couple. County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel said the new fees are in line with other area counties.