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No-smoke zone eyed for front of courthouse

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, March 20, 2017

Smokers may soon be barred from lighting up directly in front of the entrance to the Pasquotank County Courthouse.

Pasquotank commissioners discussed the possibility of banning smoking from the area immediately in front of the courthouse during Friday’s Special Project Committee meeting. 

Commissioners took no action on the matter. County Manager Rodney Bunch was asked to develop a recommendation and come back to commissioners with it.

Commissioner Jeff Dixon sparked the discussion when he said he’s noticed people lighting up right outside the courthouse door.

“Some of them stand right in the doorway,” he said.

Dixon recalled walking by one smoker in front of the courthouse who had just exhaled as he was walking past.

“I mean, you can still smell the smoke,” he said.

Dixon asked if the county could create a no-smoking zone in front of the courthouse.

Sheriff Randy Cartwright, who was in attendance at Friday’s meeting, said it could. While the county can’t regulate smoking on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, it could prohibit it in the 15-20 feet between the courthouse’s front entrance and the sidewalk, he said.

“You can certainly stop 'em from standing right in the doorways or door entrances,” he said.

Cartwright asked whether a similar no-smoking zone could be established for the area just outside the courthouse's northeastern corner, close to Colonial Avenue. Attorneys and other persons routinely go there to smoke, he said.

Dixon said he would be fine with regulating that area, too.

“Whatever legally we can do,” he said.

Commissioner Bettie Parker asked Cartwright if enforcing the ban would be an issue for his department. He said no.

Bunch agreed that second-hand smoke can be an irritant for people entering or leaving the courthouse between court sessions. But he wondered if setting up a no-smoking zone could completely eliminate the problem.

“I just don't know the good answer because we're going to push 'em to the sidewalk,” he said, referring to smokers.

Parker asked about designating a smoking area on the courthouse grounds immediately to the east of the building.

“And then no one has to walk through the smoke coming into the courthouse itself,” she said.

Bunch said he believes that's doable, but noted smokers can’t be forced to use it.

“They can still stop along the sidewalk along the street,” he said.

Parker agreed, but said if smokers know there is a designated area for them to smoke, perhaps they’d eventually use it.

“Some people will do it,” Bunch agreed.

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