Earlier this month, the Ulster Town Board adopted a local law prohibiting smoking on town-owned property. The ban followed a public hearing in early June where a small handful of speakers supported the legislation.
“There were comments made at that public hearing asking us to make it more restrictive and make it make the individuals, if they were smoking on town property, responsible for cleaning up after themselves,” said Supervisor James E. Quigley, III during a Town Board meeting held on Thursday, August 4. “We talked about implementing the law as it was written and coming back and modifying the law in due process for the recommendations that were made.”
The ban on municipal properties includes the use of e-cigarettes and vaping pens alongside more traditional forms of smoking, like cigarettes cigars and pipes.
“The Town Board of the Town of Ulster finds there is an increasing public awareness and acceptance of the dangers that smoking tobacco products, cannabis, e-cigarettes and other vaping products have on the health and well-being of the general public,” reads the local law. “The Town Board of the Town of Ulster further finds it is in the Town’s best interest to do all it can to protect the Town’s property from the danger of fire posed by discarded tobacco, cannabis, and vaping products, as well as the prevalence of unsightly litter caused by same.”
Violations of the law could lead to criminal prosecution and imprisonment of up to 15 days, and/or $2000 per violation.
Among the Town properties impacted by the ban are Town Hall, the Town Highway Department Complex, Robert Post Park, Charles Rider Park, Orlando Street Ballpark, and the Town of Ulster mini-parks.
In June, some Town Board members shared concerns about enforcement of the prospective law.
“Department heads are going to have to enforce it with their staff,” said Deputy Supervisor Clayton Van Kleeck. “There’s going to be postings, friendly warnings. But…we don’t want to end up requiring a park attendant to have to actually enforce it. If there’s a problem (people) call the police department, and the police department comes. But there’s going to have to be a sensitivity and an understanding of how we will implement this and how we will enforce it. And let’s not make a rule that not going to be enforced.”
Town Board member Rocco Secreto agreed. “It’s going to be the parks that are going to be the problem,” he said. “Around here, people are grown adults. The law is, you don’t smoke.”
At the June public hearing, Laura Hartmann expressed support for the smoking ban.
“We’re all vulnerable to secondhand smoke, any kind of it,” she said. “I just think our public spaces should be safe from that, and our parks should be clean.”
Also at the June meeting, Town Clerk Suzanne Reavy read a letter from local residents Regis Obikiski and Vicki Lucarini shared their support.
“Vicky was a public health nurse who led the implementation of the Clean Indoor Act in Dutchess County,” read the letter. “We believe that the Town of Ulster is within its rights to control the primary use and secondary effects of smoking and vaping on town properties. We also recommend adding a related littering enforcement component that considers discarding waste from these activities such as cigarette butts, vaping, vials, wrappings, et cetera, as an additional violation. Thank you for initiating this action for the health and wellbeing of all town residents, especially its most vulnerable citizens, namely children, people with disabilities and seniors.”