“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a no-brainer,” said Montgomery resident Don Berger.
Following a public hearing, the Montgomery Town Board unanimously passed a local law on Thursday prohibiting smoking in all town parks, including their parking lots, pavilions, playgrounds and ball fields.
The use of cigarettes, cigars, cannabis, vaping and chewing tobacco is no longer permitted and violations of the new local law could result in fines.
“There’s been a general feeling that all secondhand smoke—cigars, cigarettes, vaping, and now cannabis—should be regulated in some degree to minimize exposure to the public,” explained town attorney William Frank.
The local law states that it is “intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public by reducing exposure and contamination from cannabis and tobacco use and vaping in public places where young persons and children are likely to be present.”
The ban includes Benedict Farm Park, Berea Park, Riverfront Park, Twin Islands Fishing Park and the Rail Trail Park. The first violation carries a fine of $50, a second violation is $100 and all subsequent violations are $250 each. Multiple violations on the same day are considered separate offenses.
“It will be important to give out some warnings when this is first established to let people know what is going on,” said Supervisor Brian Maher, explaining that he intends to have additional police patrols give the warnings.
The town will also be putting up signs, provided free of charge through POW’R Against Tobacco, a group that works with the Department of Health.
Leilani Lockette, representing the group, said they wanted to hold a family movie night for the town in celebration of the new local law. The group will provide the screen and sound system and will purchase the movie rights. The event will likely be held in either August or September.
The community garden at Benedict Farm Park will be getting a needed upgrade. Over the years the original fencing and posts have either broken or rotted away and the town now has the opportunity to replace it by purchasing the materials and accepting the assistance of the Bruderhof community for installation.
They have already replaced 30 of the posts, but another 32 are needed to complete the project.
The board approved the appropriation of up to $900.
In other business, the board discussed some comprehensive plan issues, including concerns about excessive extensions for projects before the town’s planning board. Many projects are on hold for various reasons and have been granted multiple extensions on their approvals.
“It doesn’t make sense to continue with these extensions,” said Berger, pointing out that sections of the town have changed and others will be changing “dramatically” soon. “I think we need to look into these things rather than the constant extensions.”
He suggested that the town follow the Village of Montgomery’s lead, with an initial 180 days approval and one 180-day extension.
“We are getting a ton of extensions. I do think it’s an important thing to look at. Some of these are absolutely way too long,” said Supervisor Maher. “It just makes sense to change this up a bit.”
The board also discussed the proposal for a new town seal to better reflect the town.
“We have so much in the town of Montgomery [that] it’s going to be tough to fit it into a new envelope, but we’ll figure it out,” said Supervisor Maher. “I mean, look, the original logo is good, but I hate the truck. The 18-wheeler on the top probably needs to go. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or the drivers, but I think we’re at that point now.”
The board intends to utilize the local talent in the community to come up with a new design, which will also save the town money. The idea is to create a contest open to town residents to design the new seal incorporating elements that make up the town, such as the Wallkill River, the three villages, agriculture and Angry Orchard.
The town will also replace a broken tractor for the highway department using CHIPS funding they expect to receive by September. The plan is to purchase the tractor from Chamber Tractor Sales for $108,866.70, which is less than the New York State bid price by $2,316.
“Skip always wants to give back to the community so he discounted it,” said Highway Superintendent Shaun Meres.
The board also voted to authorize an application for a possible grant for a study on bike routes recommended in the comprehensive plan.
They also approved a youth employment program that will employ six interns for a total of 60 hours each at $12.50 per hour. All of the youth are town residents and will complete the program by August.