Durham County officials continue to grapple with anti-smoking rules. The county commissioners said Monday it agrees with the intent behind a proposed revision to a 1993 ordinance that would extend the smoking ban to bus stops, sidewalks, city and county grounds and other areas. But they don’t want new rules to result in homeless people and others being hassled and confused.
The proposed revision is intended to improve the health of Durham County residents by discouraging discount President cigarette smoking and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke. Violations could result in a $50 fine.
Health Director Gayle Harris and Assistant County Attorney Bryan Wardell made a presentation last month in which elected officials asked how an expanded ban might work. Answers on Monday, however, only generated more questions.
For example, Wardell said sidewalks affected by the ban would include those that abut city or county property and are maintained by those entities.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow then questioned how that would be enforced downtown and whether it would result in people walking in the street. “It is going to be, in my opinion, awkward,” she said, suggesting using downtown as a pilot area to work through some of the questions.
Commissioners also said designated smoking areas need to be incorporated into the plan.
The new rules wouldn’t take effect until at least July and will return to the commissioners early next year, County Manager Mike Ruffin said.
In other business Monday, the commissioners heard a request from Durham Public Schools to shift 2003 bond funding intended for a new middle school to other projects.
On Sept. 22 the Board of Education approved several adjustments to the capital projects set to be paid for by a $105 million voter-approved bond.
DPS Program Director Tim Carr said three of the 35 bond projects are still open, including acquiring land for a new middle school and renovations to Shepard Middle and Bacon Street Center, a DPS warehouse and office facility.
DPS wants to use the nearly $1.2 million set aside for the new middle school, along with unused funds from two other completed projects, to expand the Shepard renovation and address the Bacon Street Center’s deteriorating roof.
Elementary school enrollment figures indicate the new middle school will not be needed in the next 10 years, Carr said. Commissioners plan to vote on the request Monday.