By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Heading into the new year, the predominant topic for the Killeen City Council will be the resolution of the smoking ban.
While topics such as transportation and economy certainly will be of great concern, those items will be dealt with throughout the year, Councilman Kenny Wells said Friday.
A member of the smoking ordinance committee, Wells said the public hearings set for Jan. 8 and 14 likely will prove to be of most interest to the public.
"That will be the most emotional, we've scheduled a couple public hearings," Wells said Friday. "The e-mails have come in for the ordinance about 20 to 1 – it's overwhelming for the ordinance."
Wells said while he's a non-smoker and understands the feelings of the residents, he and the other members of the council will have to take a look at the concerns brought by the business owners.
"The individual citizens are just for the ordinance in general. But people who own businesses don't want it," Wells said. "It affects their business and I respect that, and it will be something I'll have to consider. It's a tough issue. I'm a non-smoker, and my wife is a former smoker, so I don't have to go outside the house to hear both sides of the ordinance."
Councilman and smoking ordinance committee member Juan Rivera said members had rushed to get the measure passed before they fully knew the feelings of the people, which is why the ordinance was pulled in November from a meeting shortly before it was to push forward.
So, he asked why the council is proceeding without giving those same people a chance to bring those issues to the council.
Those statements by Rivera came following an evaluation of several minor changes to the ordinance from City Attorney Kathy Davis, who admitted the revised form is not much different from the old one.
Rivera advocated for the public weigh-in before the committee chooses to make any substantive changes.
The committee set two public hearing dates for next month: Thursday, Jan. 8, and Wednesday, Jan. 14, both at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.
The smoking committee will meet after the public hearings, at 3 p.m. Jan. 20, and make further changes at that time.
The council indicated there will be a three-month delay before the ban becomes active. As written, the revised ordinance would make it unlawful to smoke in the following areas:
Most enclosed public places, such as restaurants, lobbies, bars, pool halls, dance clubs and bowling alleys. The only exceptions to these rules are outdoor patios either screened or not fully enclosed.
Within 25 feet of an entrance, window or vent of an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.
Outdoor public venues, such as seating areas and bleachers at parades, sporting events, and in playgrounds and inside fenced areas of public pools as well as the outdoor patio area at Stonetree Golf Clubhouse.
Exceptions include the following:
Private residences, except those which host a day care.
Designated smoking rooms at hotels.
Retail tobacco stores.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.