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Irwin makes parks, playgrounds tobacco-free

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010

Irwin parks and playgrounds are now tobacco-free.

Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to that effect at its Wednesday night meeting. It is part of the borough's involvement in Young Lungs at Play, a Penn State University Cooperative Extension initiative funded through grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Irwin has three parks: Bell Park, Penglyn Park and Irwin Park, which includes the Little Knights Kingdom playground.

"It's a wonderful idea," council president Debbie Kelly said. "Personally I get offended when I have to breathe in somebody else's stinky, smoky air. I think it's a good way to set a great example for children not to have them see adults smoking."

"It's a good thing for us and it's a good thing for Irwin to be one of the first (in Westmoreland County) to go into the program," Councilwoman Danyce Neal said. "Maybe it will be an incentive (for other communities). Manor has a playground. Penn Township has a playground. There are other playgrounds around here. North Huntingdon (Township) has how many playgrounds• So maybe they'll jump on the bandwagon here and get into that program too."

Penn State representatives presented the program to the borough about two months ago. It provides signs to indicate that an area is a tobacco-free zone and lists phone numbers for assistance in quitting tobacco use. The signs are available through the state Department of Health.

An ordinance making the parks tobacco free was advertised last month. Borough solicitor Todd Turin read it at the meeting prior to its adoption.

The ordinance cites health problems associated with tobacco use. A copy of the ordinance is available at the borough office.

"It is to the borough's purpose to help role-model non-smoking behaviors to children and youth, and to provide children and youth and their families with a smoke-free environment," Turin said.

Violators of the ordinance will be ejected from the area immediately, the ordinance stipulates.

Borough solicitor Alan Berk said the borough could add fines for violations, but would have to do so through another ordinance.

PA Tobacco Prevention program representative Anne Lail, an extension educator at Penn State, said she is thrilled that Irwin has become part of the program and has taken a step to promote better health.

Lail stayed after the meeting to thank councilors and to see how many signs the borough needs.

In other matters, council is considering a request from borough fire Chief Justin Mochar to change an ordinance that currently allows the borough fire department to bill third parties for emergency services and equipment use. He also would like the department to be able to bill property owners.

Mochar said firefighters respond to calls and try to recoup costs through insurance companies, but case law involving Safe Auto Insurance Co. v. Melody Berlin and McKean Hose Co. makes those efforts difficult. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, a three-judge Superior Court panel held that auto insurers are not responsible for emergency-responders' costs.

According to an Irwin ordinance, the borough fire department is "authorized to bill the appropriate insurance carriers for service rendered to third parties in emergency situations whenever such services may be covered by liability or hazard insurance."

Mochar requested to have the ordinance changed to include the authorization of billing property owners as well as insurance companies.

"It's getting tight in the fire department. We need to find a way to bring extra money in," the chief said.

Berk said there should be no problem accommodating the fire chief's request.

Council also voted to appoint Cheryl Dufford to fill a vacancy on the zoning hearing board with a term to expire Dec. 31, 2012.

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