During the regular Valley City City Commission meeting Monday, Ryan Mathias, owner of the NuBar in Valley City, presented the commission with his plans to build a windbreak smoke shelter to accommodate his smoking customers when a new law takes place Thursday.
During the regular November election, North Dakota voters approved a smoking ban that would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces and 20 feet from any door.
Mathias would like to create a three-wall shelter that would be an area designated for smoking that blocks the wind and rain for smokers and also protects people passing by from the secondhand smoke.
Mathias described the windbreak as “basically like a livestock shelter.”
He’d like to put a solid wall on the backside of his property with an overhang and infared heater. Another perpendicular wall would protect those walking through.
City Attorney Russell Myhre told Mathias that in order to legally build something like that, it must be about 33 percent open, which he doesn’t think this proposal would be. So he advised Mathias not to make any investments until the city knows more about the legislation, which they’ll learn when they meet with state legislators Wednesday.
Mathias also had questions about the pending legislation, including when it goes into effect be cause he has not yet received notice from the state. Myhre said his understanding is that the law is effective Dec. 6.
Another concern he had involves the enforcement of the law, especially the part that prohibits smokers from being within 20 feet from an entrance.
“Getting people to move away from the door is going to be difficult,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to ask his employees to stop serving drinks inside to go patrol outside.
Myhre said the law places most of the burden on the proprietor, who is responsible for enforcing the law, by removing ash trays, posting “no smoking” signs and advising employees of the new law.
Business owners are initially responsible for enforcement, but what they can do, Myhre said, is that if a person does not stop smoking upon being asked to, the owner should refuse service and immediately ask the person to leave the premises. If the person in violation refuses to leave, then the owner can report the violation. If the person continues to refuse, they are then in violation of the law and subject to a class B misdemeanor.
Myhre said he has talked to Police Chief Fred Thompson about how the Valley City Police Department plans to deal with the new law.
“No we’re not going to have smoking patrols; however, we are going to be responding in the event that there are complaints from citizens or even business owners of customers who are not complaint,” he said.
Myhre said he thinks it’s a good idea for the city to focus more on education than enforcement right now.
“There are going to be some issues,” Myhre said. “We’re going to have to work together to make this work.”
Mathias said, “we need to figure this out as soon as we can.”
In other city business, commissioners heard a proposal from City Administrator David Schelkoph about considering getting a credit card option for Public Works. Schelkoph said he’d like to see this option added because it’s been highly-requested and also to help people who may be behind in their bill.
“Since we don’t take credit cards we can’t take care of those people like we would like,” he said.
City commissioners approved an ordinance that increases city commissioners’ salaries from $500 per month to $600 per month, which is effective Dec. 17. The last increase was in 1998.
Mayor Bob Werkhoven said he wanted the increase because there are more demands of the commissioners and also to attract people to run for the offices.