Smokers get a reprieve on Scarborough beaches

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Latest budget proposal includes nearly 3.9% tax hike

SCARBOROUGH — Councilors on Wednesday delayed action on a proposed ban on smoking on any town-owned beach.

The Town Council voted 4-3, with Councilors Michael Wood, Carol Rancourt and Karen D’Andrea opposed, to table an amendment to the town’s parks and recreation ordinance that would ban tobacco products on town-owned property and require smokers use designated smoking areas.

Under the proposal, anyone cited for smoking on the beach would be fined $500.

Some councilors questioned the town’s ability to enforce such a law.

“I believe (emergency) dispatch will be inundated with calls for smoking on the beach,” Councilor Richard Sullivan Jr. said.

Rancourt, a cancer survivor who said she is personally affected by second-hand smoke, immediately disagreed.

“I think it falls into same category as dogs on beach,” she said. “There are many things that are against the law, and we don’t ask the Police Department to be there enforcing them all the time.”

Councilor Jessica Holbrook moved to table the amendment and instead suggested adoption of a resolution to “ease slowly into this.”

“How can we create a law when we don’t even have those (designated smoking) areas yet?” she asked.

The amendment was introduced after citizens complained that smokers were leaving used cigarette butts on the beaches and that the second-hand smoke was affecting beach-goers’ health and ability to enjoy the beach.

Members of the high school Environmental Club attended the meeting and several students spoke in favor of the ban.

“I live right down the street from Pine Point Beach, I go there all the time,” club member Patrick Snowden said. “I see cigarette butts all over the sand. I see birds going after them, thinking they’re food. That may not seem important, but they live here, too.”

Several other people also spoke in favor of the ban, including a representative from the Healthy Maine Partnerships, an anti-smoking organization that volunteered to pay for signs and an educational campaign for beach users.

The council will reconsider the issue at its next meeting.

Budget increase

The council also approved the first reading of the budget, which includes a nearly 3.9 percent property tax hike.

The $35.7 million school budget recently increased by $545,000 after the School Board restored several jobs that had previously been slashed, including an elementary school guidance counselor, middle school foreign language teacher and 4.2 teacher positions at the high school.

Changes to the $20.6 million municipal side of the budget are still being discussed by the Finance Committee and will be presented to the council at a future meeting.

The council will have a public hearing on the budget on April 27 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The budget validation vote has been moved up a week, from May 17 to May 10, to correspond with the special election for the Maine Senate District 7 seat being vacated by Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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