Early voters and other patrons of the City-County Building may have noticed a smoky smell wafting into the building recently, but apparently there is not much the health department can do about it.
While no-smoking signs are posted at the front of the building, people and workers still are permitted to smoke on the structure's front porch and in the rear where an employee-only entrance is situated.
At the early voting polling site, located inside the first floor municipal courtroom, poll workers have been keeping a window open to receive fresh air and to cool the room. Directly in front of this window is a designated smoking area at the building's rear employee-only door. While the poll workers said Thursday they have not noticed or complained about smoke entering the window, at least one voter voiced his concern about the smoke this week, they said.
Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said the front porch signs were posted by the Ohio County Commission, not health department. In a previous report, Gamble said the signs were meant only to warn people to not smoke inside the building.
"They were not put up by our department, but rather the county. They help some, but are not enforceable, since the current regulation does not cover entrances and exits. We get a lot of complaints on smoking near an entrance or exit, including the City-County building," Gamble said.
He said the board of health years ago considered expanding the county's Clean Indoor Act to ban smoking outside of building entrances, but it was never passed.
"The current regulation does not have a footage requirement for smoking near an entrance or exit. Some businesses, organizations and offices do put signage up stating that there will be no smoking within so many feet of their entrance but this is done by the business owner," Gamble said. "In 2011 we proposed to the board of health, in the proposed revised clean indoor air regulation, to set footage requirements for all entrances and exits, but this proposal is still tabled with the board. We also proposed to regulate smoking on all property owned by a governmental agency in the county, which would be smoke free inside and out."
In 2010, after numerous cigarette butts were littering the front of the building, county Administrator Greg Stewart purchased cigarette butt receptacles for the front porch for smokers to use.