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Seneca Supervisors OK one-year smoking ban exemption for mental health center

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Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:15 am

WATERLOO — As many feared, enforcement of a 1-year-old Seneca County law banning smoking on all county-owned or leased property has proven difficult at the county Mental Health Department’s Drop In Center at 27 Cayuga St. in Seneca Falls.

Many of the mentally disabled using the center are smokers who have walked onto adjacent properties to smoke since the ban was enacted, creating a new problem. The ban has reduced attendance at the center as well.

In an attempt to address the situation, the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to adopt a local law to amend the ban. It would exempt the drop-in center from the ordinance for one year. During that period, Mental Health Director Scott LaVigne will implement a smoking-cessation program for mentally disabled clients and establish a smoking area on the property.

Clients who smoke will be encouraged to participate in the stop-smoking initiative. If not, they will be subject to the smoking ban after a year.

A public hearing on the amendment is set for 8 p.m. Nov. 13.

Board members Chuck Lafler, R-Seneca Falls; Keith Kubasik, R-Waterloo; and Cynthia Lorenzetti, D-Fayette, opposed the exception, saying it sends the wrong message and sets a bad precedent. Others supported giving the plan a try.

Supervisors approved the local law amending the ban by an 8-5 vote.

Patricia Amidon, R-Tyre, and Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, joined Lafler, Kubasik and Lorenzetti in voting no.

Gary Westfall, D-Waterloo, was absent.

In other matters Tuesday:

• BATH SALTS: Claiming they can’t wait for the state Legislature to take action, the board voted to introduce a new local law banning the sale, possession, manufacture and distribution of synthetic phenethylamines and synthetic cannabinoids, more widely known as bath salts.

The drugs are available nationwide in convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops, as well as online. They are marketed as bath salts, food, window cleaner and other common household product names.

“The board finds and determines that these compounds stimulate the body’s central nervous system and causes effects similar to those caused by cocaine and amphetamines, including, but not limited to, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, violent behavior, nausea and vomiting,” the local law states.

A public hearing on the proposed local law is set for 8 p.m. Nov. 13 as part of the board’s regular meeting.

• ENGINEERING SERVICES: The board approved an amendment to an existing agreement with Barton & Loguidice Engineers of Syracuse. It will increase the budget for engineering services the company provides to the Public Health Department to as much as $15,000 a year.

In addition, the board voted 13-0 to refer a motion back to the Public Health Committee. That measure involves contracting with former County Engineer Jason McCormick for engineering services to the Public Health Department at $45 an hour.

• K-9 SALE: The board approved the recommended sale of retired Sheriff’s Department K-9 dog “ATO” to handler Deputy Frank Eldredge for $1.

• REGULATIONS OPPOSED: The board voted 12-1 to oppose a proposed change in the federal Clean Water Act by removing the word “navigable’’ in reference to the type of bodies of water that falls under the law.

The board agrees with other groups, including the Farm Bureau, that this could give the Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to a wide variety of bodies of water, such as isolated, manmade ponds and drainage ditches.

Supervisor Stephen Churchill, D-Seneca Falls, asked that the motion be delayed until the regulations could be studied to see if there are benefits to the new proposal. However, his colleagues voiced support, and the motion passed.

• HISTORIAN REPORTS: County Historian Walt Gable told the board the formal dedication of the historic marker denoting the years and activities of the former Seneca Army Depot is at 4 p.m. Oct. 28, the 50th anniversary of the peaceful conclusion of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Gable also said a book on the history of the depot will be published by The History Press in Charleston, S.C. “The Seneca Army Depot: Fighting Wars in the New York Home Front” will be available nationwide, and all royalties from the 192-page book will go to six local historical societies.

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