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Public has no comments about city budget; council weighs smoking ban in parks

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Emanuel McGirt stands in his office at Greenville City Hall Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.

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The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Greenville City Council is prepared to adopt its 2019-20 fiscal year budget on Thursday after receiving no public comments its Monday meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the council had a workshop session where it discussed a possible smoking ban in public parks and other spaces.

The council members had no questions following Deputy City Manager Michael Cowin’s review of the $136,468,370 operating budget, which keeps the city’s property tax rate at 52 cents per $100 valuation.

“This budget represents a very strong budget, a budget the city can be proud of,” Cowin said. Out of the last 12 budget cycles, the city’s tax rate only has risen above 52 cents twice.

The city’s total budget is $401.5 million, including Greenville Utilities Commission’s $260,877,948 budget, the Convention & Visitors Authority $1,599,082 budget and Sheppard Memorial Library’s $2,554,619 budget.

Highlights of the budget include:

n A 2.7 percent pay increase for city employees{

n $2.5 million for street improvements

n $1.28 million for facility improvements

n Nearly $1.8 million for vehicle replacements

n $250,000 for public safety improvements{

n $120,000 for beach volleyball courts{/li}{/ul}

The City Council is scheduled to adopt the budget during its Thursday meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Prior to the regular meeting, council members held a workshop.

City Attorney Emanuel McGirt provided an update on proposals to revise the city ordinance governing smoking in municipal buildings and facilities.

Retired Public Health Director Dr. John Morrow in November asked the City Council to consider banning smoking in parks and other public spaces such as sidewalks.

McGirt said the ban was proposed to limit exposure to second-hand smoke.

McGirt said the ordinance could not only ban smoking in city-owned parks but also city-owned vehicles. There was discussion about banning smoking on sidewalks in the uptown area.

McGirt said the authorizing legislation that allows cities to regulate smoking does not mention sidewalks. However, there are other statutes involving the protection of health and elimination of public nuisance that would likely allow them to ban smoking on sidewalks, he said.

”Where are the people working downtown supposed to smoke?” Mayor P.J. Connelly asked.

City Manager Ann Wall said there are some private alleys whose owners may permit their employees to smoke. {/span}

Council members then discussed what buildings and businesses would fall under the definition of public spaces. McGirt said those spaces are enclosed structures that invite members of the public inside, saying a supermarket is one example. He said businesses that invite members of the public inside, such as an attorneys office, also could be considered a public space.

Councilman Rick Smiley questioned if a supermarket or a child care center, where there is a greater expectation of a healthy environment, should be treated differently than an office.

Connelly said it’s up to the private sector to decide if smoking should be allowed in its facilities and plenty of people will not shop where smoking is allowed.

There were additional questions about what city-owned spaces should not allow smoking when it was pointed out it could be banned at bus stop shelters.

Connelly asked McGirt to bring back a definition of public property and a list of public properties owned by the city.

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