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Smoke shack draws a lot of discussionPosted Friday, April 18, 2008, at 2:57 PM
Apparently, Greene County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition director Nancy Cummings recently struck a nerve with a good number of local folks.
She questioned the county commissioners about the presence of the so-called "smoke shack" at the Greene County Courthouse in downtown Bloomfield.
On Tuesday, she asked the county commissioners whether the rather new smoke shack was considered a county building.
According to the commissioner's attorney (Marilyn Hartman) it is not.
She wanted to know who the formal caretaker of the structure was. It is the commissioners.
She also wanted to know why $3,200 of what she called "taxpayer money" was used pay for the shack.
The smoke shack was purchased by the Greene County Building Corporation as part of the bond issue for the courthouse addition/remodeling project.
This is not property tax money.
The courthouse bonds are being paid off from revenues collected from the County Option Income Tax -- which is paid by everyone who works in Greene County -- whether they live here or not -- and by county residents who work elsewhere.
All are legitimate questions and Cummings has every right -- as any citizen does -- to ask them of the elected officials.
The topic has surely drawn a lot of interest from our reading public -- both in the newspaper and on our Web site.
Since a pair of stories ran following Cumming's presentation on Tuesday morning to the Greene County Commissioners, our Web site had been busy with activity -- nearly 2,000 page views in two days and more than 50 reader comments logged for those two stories.
No surprising, most of the comments were against Cummings idea of removing the smoke shack.
Some of the comments that were deleted and others that were not trashed were very rude, vicious personal attacks aimed at Cummings.
Most forgot she was only doing her job as the county's anti-tobacco advocate, by raising the questions. However, she is not a county employee as some readers asserted.
It's funny and sad at the same time how crude, rude and stupid people can be when they are given the opportunity to "speak their minds" under the secretive veil of being anonymous on a place like our Web site.
The comments section that appears after stories on our Web site is sometimes both a curse and a blessing.
The smoke shack represents the designated smoking area at the courthouse for employees and patrons.
It is the place to smoke or chew when you are on the grounds, because smoking and chewing tobacco products is still not allowed inside the courthouse, the annex, at the jail, the 4-H building or any other building under the authority of the county commissioners.
There is nothing illegal, immoral or wrong about the smoking spot. The world and the courthouse is filled with smokers and non-smokers.
Cigarettes, snuff and chewing tobacco are all legal products to buy and use in this state.
Remember, it's pretty difficult to legislate good behavior.
At its meeting on Wednesday morning, members of the Building Corporation explained why they wanted to erect the smoking structure.
There were fire safety concerns. There were concerns about the safety and health of courthouse patrons and employees, who were forced to wander through a cloud of smoke and congregating individuals entering or leaving the only public accessible part of the building.
I remember those discussions and have to agree with their thought process.
They wanted to correct a problem that wasn't going to go away unless the county commissioners would pass an ordinance that banned the use of all tobacco products on the entire courthouse square.
That isn't likely to happen any time soon and this is a viable and effective alternative.
The Building Corporation said they are "OK" with the smoke shack which has been tucked away in a little nook between the new addition and the old building -- just north of the eastside entrance.
The smoke shack is a small and rather attractive Plexiglas constructed roofed structure with an open doorway.
Before the smoke shack and a public cigarette ash container were placed near the entrance, it was common to see a large distribution of cigarette butts everywhere around the courthouse lawn.
Yes, there was also often a fog of tobacco smoke hovering around the doorway to the courthouse.
Hopefully, now the non-smokers among us can all breathe a little easier when we enter or leave the courthouse because of the smoke shack. The source of the smoke is tucked a distance away from the doorway.
And, the smokers now have a place to take a few puffs during breaks in a place which is out of the wind and weather.
This is not an endorsement or condemnation of tobacco users by the county.
Everybody ought to be happy.
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