Syracuse — Heidi Blake, program director for the Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition came before the Syracuse Town Council to ask about a Tobacco Free Air ordinance during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 15.
As part of her presentation, she showed the council two zip lock bags with approximately 600 cigarette butts she and other members of the coalition cleaned up from the downtown area. She explained these butts tend to end up in the storm sewer system and eventually into the lake, Cigarette butts have a 67% chance of becoming litter.
She presented the council with a copy of a model ordinance to consider adopting for Syracuse. The ordinance would close exemptions that allow smoking in veterans organizations, fraternal organizations and bars. It would also extend the buffer zone outside establishments, where smokers have to be currently 8 feet from the door to 20-25 feet from the door.
Blake said there was currently no tobacco free ordinance in Kosciusko County, but there are similar ordinances in other communities in the area. Councilman Bill Musser asked about a smoker’s right to go to a bar to enjoy a drink while smoking a cigarette. Blake said non-smokers have rights too.
Councilman Larry Siegel asked about the medical costs for life long smoking. Blake said employers hiring smokers lose $6,200 a year due to lower productivity, health issues and pre-mature death.
Siegel pointed out group insurance policies are also higher by having smokers on them. Also those who develop smoking related illnesses and transition onto Medicare/Medicaid cost the system an extra $1 billion.
Councilman Paul Stoelting pointed out a Tobacco Free Ordinance won’t address the litter Blake cleaned up, especially with SR 13 going through town. Blake explained such an ordinance shows a statistical decrease in smoking rates.
Musser asked Blake if Syracuse was the only community the coalition approached about passing this type of ordinance. Blake said it was noting Town Manager Mike Noe was supportive of the measure and that the community was close to lakes.
Musser noted there were 70 lakes in the area, and again asked why Syracuse. Blake said because the town was near some of the “most influencail” lakes in the county. Musser responded, “That’s not a good answer.”
Another visitor to the town council meeting was Renea Salyer, the new executive director of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce. She introduced her self and offered the chamber’s willingness to partner with the town on various projects. The chamber’s hours are now 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Musser noted a big complaint in the past was chamber personnel not returning phone calls. Salyer said that would not be an issue.
The council approved the 2020 budget for $4,173,220.
The council approved a transfer ordinance, transferring $6,225 from liability insurance to health insurance, $3,110 and retirement, $3,115.
The council amended the building and construction rules and regulations, now each application for a permit filed shall require a cash deposit of $500 instead of $250.
The council approved an ordinance establishing a handicapped parking space on the southwest corner of East Main Street and North Harrison Street in front of the Syracuse Public Library.
In his report Noe, commended town employees for their work in fixing a broken water main. “It was a great team effort to make a bad situation better,” he said.
The town received a Community Crossings Grant for $335,597.75 for street paving projects. The town’s matching portion will be $113,199 for a total of $452,797.
Contracts were signed for repair work and painting of the north water tower. The work is expected to be done by May 31,2020.
The council approved paying $12,000 for new mobile data collectors and new software for the water department. The existing software will soon be obsolete.
The council approved spending $39,498 for a 2019 Dodge SUV to replace a police car that was recently damaged. The new SUV is a demo vehicle completely outfitted for police work. Chief Jim Layne said only a radio and radar need to be installed in the vehicle.
Trick or Treat hours are 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31.
Chad Jonsson, park superintendent, reported the Superhero Academy had 16 participants. The event will be held in the winter next year so as to not compete with fall sports.
The annual Harvest Festival held Saturday, Oct. 12, was successful despite the chilly weather.
The indoor garage sale is set for Saturday, Oct. 19, with 30 booths. Lakeland Youth Center will have its annual fall carnival at the community center on Saturday, Oct. 26.
The Haunted Thrill at Crosson Mill will be held Oct. 25,26 and Oct. 31.
The Syracuse Park Department has decided to install more lights in the parking lot for safety. Jonsson will apply for a Harkless Foundation Grant to help offset the cost.
Fire Chief Mickey Scott reported the insurance adjuster is still working of figures, but estimates the damage done to the ambulance that was hit is about $50,000. No decision has been made whether to total the vehicle out yet.
To repair the ambulance could take 5-6 months while a new one will take a year to build. Scott said he hopes the ambulance will be totaled out as an axle was hit and the floor has buckled.
Scott thanked North Webster for allowing Turkey Creek Fire to borrow one of their ambulances.
The clerk treasurer’s office will be closed Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Nov. 1, for training.
In old business, the council approved paying the electric bill for 26 additional lights in Oakwood Park along with handling any necessary repairs and converting the lights to LED.
In new business after some discussion came up about various ordinances, Layne suggested the town’s ordinances be reviewed since many were vague and unenforceable. He told the council he will sit down with Noe and Vern Landis, town attorney, this winter and go over the ordinance book.
Scott noted several people have been found storing gasoline or kerosine in 55 gallon drums. Those types of flammables in that amount cannot be stored within 20 feet of an adjacent property or public right of way according to the state fire code.