Safford parks set to become a smoke-free environment

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: Carlos Gonzalez vapes while at the Safford Skate Park. The Safford City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance making smoking or vaping anywhere inside Safford's parks a Class-2 misdemeanor punishable with a fine between $50 to $500.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The air around children’s playgrounds and open spaces at the city of Safford’s parks is about to get a little cleaner.

That’s the position the Safford City Council and the anti-tobacco youth organization Students Taking a Road to Success (STARS) are taking.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: The Graham County STARS petitioned the Safford City Council on Feb. 27. Pictured are, from left, Tatum Clifford, Ashly Hobbs, Garret Wilson, Jacob Johnson, Kaleb Ulibarri and Anika Ruiz.

The council heard a first reading of its new ordinance banning smoking in any city park at its Monday night meeting. The ordinance also outlaws vaping any substance but does allow smokeless forms of tobacco, such as chew.

Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman lauded the ordinance as helping protect youth from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

“We want to have a place that families can bring their children to play, and at least at those places not expose them to second-hand smoke,” Brugman said.

The STARS group first proposed the ordinance change to the council at its Feb. 27 meeting. The STARS group is organized under the umbrella of the Graham County Health Department and has Toni Palomino as its adult representative.

“There is no level of safe exposure to second-hand smoke,” group spokesperson Garret Willson said at that meeting. “We believe that the children are very impressionable and seeing an adult smoking might encourage them to start.”

The STARS group was on hand for the first reading, and member Ashly Hobbs was called upon by Safford Mayor Jason Kouts to perform the reading.

While smoking will be banned from the city’s parks after the second reading at its April 24 meeting, smoking at the facility’s parking lot and around its perimeter on the sidewalk will still be allowed. Enforcement will be performed by the Safford Police Department upon regular patrol or by being informed of someone breaking the ordinance.

Those found in violation “shall be punishable as a Class-2 misdemeanor” and face a minimum fine of $50 up to a maximum fine of $500.

The new ordinance also alters the law for consuming or possessing any alcoholic beverage in the park to a Class-1 misdemeanor with the same fine schedule as someone caught smoking.

In other council news:

  • The council renewed its contract for D. Corey Sanders to serve as the city’s magistrate for two years, beginning July 1. The contract will pay Sanders $25,200 annually.
  • The council renewed its contract for Matt Clifford PLC. to serve at the city’s prosecutor for three years, beginning July 1. The contract will pay Clifford $84,000 annually and will allow him to bill for victim advocate services, with a first-year estimation of $2,000.
  • The city awarded a bid from Hark Drilling, Inc. to install a methane gas venting system at the Safford Regional Landfill in accordance with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality specifications. The bid award is for $151,960.93, which is roughly $8,000 less than the engineer’s estimation of cost and about $65,000 cheaper than the other competing bid. The methane venting is necessary to the city’s plan to increase the height of the landfill and extend its life.