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Mayor, council weigh options on smoking ban

It’s a very contentious issue,” Mayor Don Hillman said.

That was obvious Monday night as the Powell City Council discussed a proposed smoking ban in enclosed public places. The proposal, which was brought to the council by an anti-smoking group several weeks ago, wasn’t on the agenda. But Hillman and some members of the council talked about it, since several local bar owners and employees were in the audience.



A story and an editorial in the Aug. 1 issue of the Powell Tribune brought the proposed ban to the forefront. The story reported that the city would abandon a plan to send letters to business owners to ask their views on such a ban, and would instead conduct a scientific poll of the entire community.

Sharon Altermatt, the team leader for Prevention Management of Park County, has been pushing for the smoking ban in public places. Altermatt and City Administrator Zane Logan both were interviewed for the Aug. 1 story. They said after a July 16 meeting with Hillman, they had agreed not to issue a letter to business owners, but instead had decided to conduct a scientific poll.

Monday night, Hillman and Logan said there had been some confusion over what was agreed to in that meeting. The mayor said he met with Altermatt again on Friday to discuss what was being said publicly, and to make sure they understood each other.

The city of Powell will not do a poll to see what the community thinks about banning smoking in public places, Hillman told the audience.

“We are not going to conduct a scientific opinion poll,” he said. “We never agreed to change that.”

Instead, he said a letter containing a short survey will be sent out to gather public input. The council will decide in the coming weeks who will receive the letter and what it will ask them.

“The decision to send the letter was made in an open meeting of the Powell City Council and that decision has not changed,” Hillman said.

He said the council may decide to send letters to bar owners, restaurant owners, private club operators or perhaps all businesses in town. Any one of those entities could be considered for a smoking ban, or none of them may have smoking prohibited inside their doors.

That is for the council to decide, Hillman said. But he said it will be done via a letter and a short survey, not through a poll.

‘We have no plans to conduct a scientific public survey at this time,” Hillman said. “The survey will be run by the mayor’s office, it will be run by the city.”

Logan said he thinks the confusion arose over the words that were used.

“The terms survey and letter got mixed up,” he said.

Altermatt said she thought the city agreed with her to conduct a poll.

“I still wanted a scientific survey,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t think a letter is going to tell them anything. But it’s not my job to argue with the mayor. I thought they agreed to a scientific poll as long as I paid for it.”

Altermatt said when she spoke with Hillman on Friday he told her he never wanted to discard the idea of a letter and switch to a poll.

“He’s adamant that he never did agree to drop the letter,” Altermatt said. “But that was my understanding of it.”

However, Hillman and Logan said that, while they will not take Altermatt up on her offer to pay for a poll, they are planning to allow her to cover the costs of sending out the letter and survey. That will save the city money, they said, but the council and the mayor will have complete control over the content.

Altermatt said she wishes she had attended Monday night’s meeting.

“They asked me to not come until it was on the agenda, and it was not on the agenda,” she said. “If I had known they were going to talk about it, I would have been there.”

Supporters of the proposed ban had planned to attend the meeting, but were told via email not to do so since the issue would not be discussed.

Several bar owners and managers who “braved the flood and the stormy weather,” according to Hillman, attended the meeting. The second hailstorm in a week pounded the city an hour before the meeting started.

Councilman Eric Paul promised them a thoughtful process.

“We’re going to take our time, we’re going to do it right,” Paul said.

Councilman Jim Hillberry, who spoke against the proposed smoking ban at the July 15 meeting, reiterated his opposition Monday night. He said the business owners were his primary concern.

‘I’m not in favor of enforcing an ordinance for something that people don’t want,” Hillberry said.

Meldon McCullough of The Peaks asked who would be questioned about their views on a smoking ban — people who go to bars or people who do not. That would be determined by the council, the mayor said.

After the meeting was over, Hillman said he realizes there are a lot of strong feelings about the matter, and feelings can run hot on both sides.

“It’s a very contentious issue,” he said again.

In other agenda items:

• The council gave a second approval to an ordinance that will allow the city to pay council members who attend Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) conventions and other meetings.

Although city officials have been paid in the past for attending such meetings, a closer look at city ordinances by the mayor and City Attorney Sandee Kitchen revealed that they should not have been. The council then discussed its options and asked Kitchen to draft an ordinance that will amend its pay structure.

The ordinance received its first approval on July 15. It will need a third approval to become city law but under state law, pay for elected officials cannot be altered until someone is elected to a new term.

The city could approve special reimbursements for officials who attend meetings until the rules can be altered, Kitchen said last month.

• The council approved a subdivision agreement and the amended final plat for Phase IV of the Petersen No. 1 subdivision.

“This was a replat to make three lots out of the original five so that three four-unit affordable housing units could be built,” Logan said.

The Powell Planning and Zoning Commission had recommend approval.

• An agreement with Powell Valley Recycling was renewed for another year.

The agreement has been in place for several years, according to Logan, and rates didn’t change. An effort to allow glass to be recycled was considered but in the end rejected.

“PVR used to accept glass but since the county now charges for glass the same as any other MSW [municipal solid waste], it was decided not to accept it anymore,” he said in an email to the Tribune.

• The council granted a waiver of open container laws and provided a malt beverage permit for Plaza Diane for the Powell Arts Festival from 7-11 p.m. Aug. 24.

• Hillman said the council will hold a joint meeting with Cody and Meeteetse and the Park County Commission at Powell City Hall.

The tentative date for the meeting is Sept. 18, but since there is a WAM meeting that week, the date may change, he said.

• Councilmen Josh Shorb and Myron Heny were absent.


  • posted by Justine

    August 12, 2013 1:27 pm

    Yep I agree just another way for them to get control

  • posted by Patty Giles

    August 12, 2013 12:52 pm

    Second hand smoke is life threatening for me, so I often have to make a choice as to where I will or will not go or who I will be around or not.

    For those who say this is not a health issue, but a government control issue, I suggest you carefully peruse the following reports on the subject:

  • posted by Stew McClue

    August 11, 2013 9:21 am

    Privatly owned bars are "NOT" publicly owned, in otherwords, we pay for the business, the license, and all the extra taxes, out of pocket, not publicly funded. We force no one to come into the business. The majority, "blue collar workers" are smokers and have no intention of quitting simply because there is a smoking ban in ALL or any businesses. That being said, this is not really a health issue, it is more of a government control issue. With a poor economy already threatening every business on main street Powell, it is unrealistic to force further control over the patrons privilages. The people that frequent bars are of legal age to drink or smoke. Underaged people of the public are not allowed access. They are old enough to decide as an adult, whether they want to be in there or not. Tobacco and alcohol are still legal in this country. Fines levied against the smoker and the establishment for breaking the rules is just another way for government go get more of our hard earned money.

  • posted by Pig Grinder

    August 10, 2013 9:27 pm

    CAP war-pig,

    Your last sentence corrupts your entire argument. To argue that a cause is not worthy if it's "hotly contested" is to say emancipation, women's suffrage and the civil rights movement were all unworthy causes. Do you think the only worthy causes are the ones that are approved by unanimous decision? If so, there are no worthy causes because people's opinions, perspectives and philosophies are always going to differ.

    P.S - Mrs. Altermatt has been pushing for the same changes in Cody. So, I guess that answers all your questions.

  • posted by CAP war-pig

    August 10, 2013 1:01 pm

    I would like to thank Mr. Hillberry. You seem to have a good grasp on how the people who actually care about businesses in Powell feel.

    As to Mr. Altermatt, if this is indeed MR. Altermatt, and not MRS., everybody I have talked to, and that is MANY, if you do not live in Powell why do you care about Powell? Could this be just an easy first step in going for the entire state?
    Why not start in Cody, where you live?

    In my humble opinion, it is a SAD state of affairs when tax-payer money is paid to a person who is trying to force unwanted legislation upon the majority on the behalf of the minority!

    Ms. Altermatt, if this is such a WORTHY cause, why is it being so hotly contested?

  • posted by SuperSixOne

    August 10, 2013 12:12 am

    Mr. Altermatt, I see you & your wife do not even reside in Powell.

    See, when us simple folks from Powell go into any establishment, we do so by our own free will. If that establishment has an unpleasant odor, or unpleasant people, or an unpleasant atmosphere, we simply leave, never to return.

    Are you so ordained, that you believe it is you and your wife's duty to infringe upon someone else's establishment, and dictate your policy, because the lobbyist money has all of a sudden made you and your wife Constitutional Scholars?

    Is that the price one pays accepting the beliefs of some greasy lobbyist?

    Does it make you right to be paid to do preaching on his/her behalf?

    Can you kindly take your business to Cody? Us simple Powell folks can survive without you or your wife's in put into our community. We've been doing so for many a decade.

  • posted by Steve Moseley

    August 09, 2013 11:32 am

    Nebraska made this ban statewide not too many years ago and, yes, it was contentious. I see both sides from my perspective as a 35-year, pack-a-day smoker (until 10 years ago) who has been married 43 years to an innocent soul who is so violently allergic to cigarette smoke her nose will actually bleed. Out of consideration for her I trained myself long ago not to smoke in the house, garage or her car, and certainly never in her presence. It was inconvenient, not to mention humiliating, to stand outside pathetically puffing in torrential rain, hail and blizzards, but it was absolutely right and proper that I do it for her. I would hope the smoking minority might to do the same voluntarily in simple consideration of the vast majority of their fellow humans who don't choose to smoke. The argument that disallowing smoking in areas of public access is the same as banning people with big feet or tattoos or who need a shower is shrill and doesn't pass the test. My big feet, your tattoos or that smelly guy in Aisle 5 can't give anyone else cancer and a whole laundry list of other health disorders. Second-hand smoke, however, has been proven to do exactly that. It's that lethal difference which refutes all such trite comparisons. Good luck to the folks of Powell in getting through this one. It's a biggie, but I hope both sides will be civil and respectful of the opposing position. There is merit in both arguments.

  • posted by An American Citizen

    August 09, 2013 10:36 am

    Well Mr. Altermatt, Since there was some confusion as the newpaper posted they were going to talking about it, they don't have everyone's email, Sadly with all the people there that were obviously upset about this it would have been unwise to not address the backdoor garbage that PMPC tried to pull that is against open meeting regulations, with that in mind they had to at least discuss that and allowed the floor to the people to discuss the smoking ban if they wanted, out of respect alot didn't because the council said they are wanting to educate themselves on the situation, This is going to be a long drawn out fight and if people are pulling deceptive bull like what PMPC did... its gonna get ugly quick.

  • posted by SuperSixOne

    August 09, 2013 4:09 am

    Slavery vs. Smokers rights. I see lobbyist money can even blur one's sense of reality. These two issues share so many similarities. We are glad we have people who can be bought in our community. Heck, you should run or city / county / state or federal government. I am happy to know, that you know better than I, how to make decisions on my behalf. So, should I change my oil at 3,000 miles, or 5,000 miles. You obviously know more than my mechanic.

  • posted by Jerry Altermatt

    August 08, 2013 5:29 pm

    So which "thoughtful process" will we get as promised? If telling one side of the issue they can't speak at council meeting and then allowing the other side to speak is their idea of a thoughtful process, I can't wait to see. If it's surveying bar owners (which would be kind of like asking slaveholders how they felt about a ban on slavery, I'll really be impressed.

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