Tobacco, in all of its forms, is to be banned outright from Conway’s parks and recreational facilities.

The Conway City Council voted on Tuesday night to pass an ordinance prohibiting "tobacco of any kind suitable for chewing or smoking or any article made of tobacco or a tobacco substitute" within the parks. The issues was decided with little discussion, though the issue had been vigorously hashed out at the committee meeting earlier in the evening.

Two aldermen agreed to disagree towards the end of the committee meeting. Alderman Theodore Jones Jr., who said that he had seen on two occasions a smoker react rudely to a parent asking if he or she would extinguish their cigarette for the sake of nearby children, urged the council to pass the ordinance while Alderman Mark Vaught said that the city’s business didn’t extend to the point that citizens could be told not to smoke in a public, outdoor setting.

Vaught proposed installing signs with language to the effect of "keep our parks smoke free" without effecting an ordinance laying out penalties and possibly involving police officers coming to the parks to cite or arrest smokers.

Jones and other aldermen, including Jim Rhodes, said that without "teeth," any action to restrict tobacco use would put parks employees in the awkward position of being approached by citizens asking them to enforce the intent of the signage and having to tell them that the city couldn’t.

Rhodes added that in his household, a child rarely changed their behavior at a suggestion without consequences if the undesired behavior continued, and didn’t think that some adults would be any different.

Another option available to the council was to restrict smoking to designated areas within parks, but this was only discussed to the extent that Jones’ statement that smoke would waft in any direction — probably toward children — wasn’t contested.

Vaught was alone in voting against the ordinance. Fines for violating the ordinance will be set at $25 for the first offense and $50 and $100 for the second and third, plus court costs if applicable. Also, those who don’t cease tobacco use in parks when asked may be made to leave "and shall be subject to prosecution for criminal trespass" if they don’t. 

City Attorney Mike Murphy said that he imagined that the ordinances would be enforced in a similar manner as are the city’s ordinances pertaining to litter: a citizen wanting to see it enforced would contact authorities and fill out an affidavit stating what infraction he or she had seen and who the infractor was, and the matter would then be handled by authorities.

This does apply to smokeless tobacco, including in adult-league baseball or softball games where chewing tobacco is considered by some a tradition associated with the sport.

Parks Director Brian Knopp said that he intended to order about 50 signs informing park visitors of the smoking ban.

In other business not on the agenda but brought up for consideration by Mayor Tab Townsell, it was proposed that the city use Conway Corp. money in a short-term loan arrangement to purchase about $1.2 million worth of land in the Lollie Bottoms area needed to build an airport there.

The plan had been to purchase the land with city money, 95 percent of which would be reimbursed by the Federal Aviation Administration "within a matter of days" of its expenditure, Townsell said, but the city’s reserve fund shortfall combined with the need to buy some of the land in April — a month that happens to have three payroll periods — would make this impossible.

The Conway Corp. Board of Directors had discussed and approved the arrangement, Townsell told the council, and when the FAA money comes in it will be used to repay Conway Corp. 100 percent of its loan.

The council did vote on a boat dock issue on Tuesday, but also voted to remove the responsibility of approving boat docks from the council. The boat dock ordinance was amended to allow any owner of property fronting Beaverfork Lake to build a boat dock if plans for the dock meet existing engineering requirements.

In other business, the council voted to:

• Authorize the Mayor to acknowledge a unanimous consent of bondholders relating to the City’s’ outstanding taxable industrial development revenue bonds (Hewlett Packard Company Project);

• Approve the nomination of John Adams to the Conway Corporation Board of Directors and of Jeffrey Boucher the Conway Civil Service Commission (Aldermen Shelley Mehl and David Grimes voted against the nomination, as Boucher had served more than half of a previous term, though both said that they had not doubt in his qualifications or commitment);

• Approve a resolution establishing the intent of the City of Conway to annex certain lands compromised of 73.8 acres located north of Highway 319, west of Conway City Limits commonly known as Cadron Settlement Park (the city is leasing the land currently from the Army Corps of Engineers for a token amount, and annexing the land would align the city for the planned annexation of 400 Conway Corp.-owned acres for future economic development, Townsell said); 

• Approve an ordinance revising the nuisance abatement and property maintenance chapter of the Conway Municipal Code substantially lowering fines and revising the sign ordinance penalties and fines;

• Approve an ordinance to rezone property located south of Bay Town Drive at the western terminus of Burnt Pine Drive from A-1 to R-1;

• Approve an ordinance to rezone property located at 1915 Rich Smith Drive from O-1 to MF-3 (aldermen Shelia Whitmore and Jim Rhodes voted against the rezoning, Rhodes saying that he felt the property would be better suited to commercial, rather than apartment, use);

• Table an ordinance amending the Conway Sign Ordinance, (section 1301) in reference to pre-existing non-conforming signs until more information as to how the amendment will affect specific streetfronts set for improvement (the amendment would remove the language "except in the case of street relocation" from the provision that, "A legally established sign which fails to conform to this Ordinance shall be allowed continued use except that the sign shall not be expanded, moved, or relocated, except in the case of street relocation.);

• Authorize the removal of an unauthorized boat dock located on Beaverfork Lake at 26 Lakeview Drive;

• Approve an ordinance appropriating funds for asphalt paving and stripping of the additional parking lot at City of College Park;

• Approve an agreement with Youth Softball Association of Conway (YSAC) and the University of Central Arkansas for rental use of Jefferson D. Farris Junior Softball Fields;

• Approve an ordinance appropriating funds from the District Court automation fund for a surveillance system;

• Approve a maintenance agreement with Otis Elevator for Central Police Station; 

• And approve approve an agreement with the Arkansas Cooperative Extensive Service by which the city will pay $25,000 to partially fund the extension agent’s salary.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)