The wording and extent of a proposed smoking ban in Sedalia again dominated discussions during Thursday night’s meeting of the Sedalia City Council.
The meeting, rescheduled from Monday due to severe weather, saw council members request a draft ordinance from City Attorney Anne Gardner that would ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. The ordinance would exempt private clubs such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Moose Lodge, except when those clubs open their doors to the public for events such as regular bingo nights.
It would also provide a warning to business owners before facing a fine for smoking on the premises.
Following previous discussions of how the city should define a bar, Gardner presented council with a review of the 31 Missouri cities that have already passed smoking bans.
Of the 31 ordinances reviewed, six cities exempted bars from their smoking bans, although there is little uniformity on the extent of the exemptions.
“There are some that exempted bars, but most of them didn’t,” Gardner said. “My recommendation to you if you are concerned about whether we define the percentage of food or not (served by an establishment that serves liquor by the drink) is just to take it out,” Gardner said. “A bar is going to be anybody that serves liquor by the drink.”
Gardner pointed out that many of the cities exempted private clubs conditional on whether or not those clubs have paid employees or host public events.
Ward 4 Councilman Larry Stevenson and Ward 2 Councilwoman Becca La Strada sought agreement from fellow council members to defining a bar as any business where beer or liquor constitute more than half of the business’ annual sales.
“That is right down the middle,” La Strada said. “That way everybody can have a piece of the pie.”
Ward 1 Councilman Steven Galliher disagreed and continued to push for a comprehensive ban.
“I think there is a lot less confusion if you make it across the board,” Galliher said. “We have an overwhelming positive response from the people that they want it straight across the board. I think we need to listen to a majority of the folks and leave our personal agendas out of it.”
However, Galliher said he “can be flexible” in allowing an exemption for private clubs.
“Private clubs are private clubs. If they want to make the bingo nonsmoking I think that is a wise choice. If they want to do that, that’s fine,” Galliher said.
Stevenson seemed to agree with Galliher’s suggestion, but then sought to return the discussion to the question of how to define a bar.
“I like all that. I just don’t like the bar part,” Stevenson said.
La Strada and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Cross seemed to agree, expressing concern over the affect the ordinance would have on existing businesses.
Ward 3 Councilman Wiley Walter told fellow council members: “We aren’t getting anywhere with this.”
“Let’s make this simple. Private clubs are exempt and the rest are out,” Walter said.
Gardner said she is ready to put a draft ordinance together, and council agreed that she would have the proposal available for review at the June 3 meeting, with a vote likely during the next regular meeting on June 17.
However, Stevenson then changed course again and raised the issue of bringing the issue to a public vote during the next municipal election.
“I am still not done. I am going to go down swinging. There is so much dissension here. Is this something that should be put to a vote of the public?” Stevenson said, with vocal support from La Strada and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Cross.
Galliher countered that council are elected representatives charged with setting policy for the city.
“Folks elect us to do this job, so we want to turn around and say why don’t you do my job for me because I don’t really want to take a stand,” Galliher said.
Stevenson responded: “I don’t think this council needs to vote. ... the eight of us (don’t) need to tell the whole cotton-pickin’ city what to do. Let the public out here vote this thing either in or out.”
He pledged to continue to push for a public vote on the matter.
“I want this to go to the vote of the people and that is what I am going to promote until the next meeting,” Stevenson said.
In other business, council also:
• Approved the purchase of trap rock, used in chip-and-seal street repair work, from Iron Mountain; $13 per ton.
• Approved the purchase of patch kits, used to repair broken sewer mains, from Source 1 Environment; $23,940 .
• Approved an agreement with Engineering Surveys and Services; $50,000.
• Approved a proposal from Qscend Technologies to update cityofsedalia.com and design a mobile version for smartphones and tablets; $11,050.
• Approved an ordinance accepting an Abatement Order on Consent between the city and Missouri Department of Natural resources relating to a fish kill at the North Wastewater Treatment Facility.
• Approved two ordinances relating to the relocation of a sewer main at 3110 West Broadway Boulevard.
• Approved an ordinance that makes minor changes to the classification and job description for Equipment Operator 1 for the Public Works Department.