published Friday, June 13th, 2014

East Ridge vaping ban advances

East Ridge is one step closer to prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes inside its publicly owned buildings.

In a unanimous vote at its Thursday meeting, the City Council approved an ordinance on first reading that would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in city-owned or leased buildings. Currently, no rule prohibits the use of nicotine vaporizers in city buildings.

Councilman Larry Sewell was on vacation and was not present for the vote.

City Councilman Marc Gravitt said the ban would apply only to municipally owned and leased buildings, not the outdoor property or city equipment and vehicles.

According to the ordinance, a person who is found using a vapor product will first be asked to stop, and if that person refuses, they will be escorted off of the property. No fines or penalties are mentioned.

As far as use of vaping products in city equipment and vehicles, Gravitt said that he would leave that up to the discretion of City Manager Andrew Hyatt.

Hyatt said he's going to meet with the heads of the city departments -- such as Fire, Police, Finance and Parks and Recreation -- and discuss what guidelines for e-cigarette use need to be implemented for city vehicles.

"It's easy to dictate and say, 'No, you can't wear that, you can't do that, you can't go there,'" Hyatt said. "But I think you've got to get everybody involved."

"My personal preference would be for them not to drive around with them, because of the appearance that it would give," Hyatt continued. "But, I also understand that it's something completely different. So we'll get the staff together."

Hyatt said that he would probably sit down with city leadership to discuss the vehicle vaping policy sometime early next week.

The Bradley County Commission similarly passed a ban on vapor products in municipal buildings at its meeting on June 2.

The East Ridge City Council also voted at the meeting to increase the East Ridge city judge's pay by $6,000 -- from $18,000 per year to $24,000 a year. This pay increase will go into effect at the start of the new judicial term, following this November's election.

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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