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.