Two new members and a new mayor have joined Morenci city council since last summer—the last time a vote came up for an alcohol permit at a Wakefield Park softball tournament.
The new makeup of council members led to a different voting outcome than in the past and three requests for permits were turned down Monday night.
In the past, Dick Hewitt and Keith Pennington cast the only votes opposing an alcohol permit. This time around, they were joined by Greg Braun, Art Erbskorn and mayor Doug Erskin. Only Tracy Schell and Leesa Slocum supported the request.
A permit allows the consumption of alcohol within a defined area beyond the outfield fence. Without the permit, consumption is not allowed in the park.
Pennington noted that he always opposes requests for the permit and since there are new members on council, he chose to explain his position.
“The city really needs to take leadership for the benefit of the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” he said. “I think it’s wrong to promote the use of alcohol at the park. It buys into the marketing scheme that you have to have alcohol in order to have fun.”
Pennington added that he thinks the misuse of alcohol is one of the greatest detriments facing the country, noting that it often leads to traffic fatalities, abuse, family problems and other outcomes.
Schell confirmed with police chief Larry Weeks that no incidents have occurred at the park since the permit system started in March 2005.
Earlier in the meeting, council members gave their support by a 6-1 vote for a state-wide smoking ban in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder said she and other city leaders were asked for their opinion on the issue last week when they met with State Sen. Cameron Brown.
Legislators are coming closer to approving a ban and the governor has said she would sign a no-smoking bill.
After a motion was offered by Pennington for council’s support of the ban, Schell said that she wouldn’t want her name on the letter.
“I don’t feel that it should be legislated,” she said. “I would love to see no smoking, but I would like to see people take their own responsibility.”
Slocum stated she didn’t expect that to happen without legislation.
Mayor Erskin said he’s heard favorable reports from Ohio’s ban and he’s been told that some establishments have reported an increase in sales since the ban took effect.
Schell was the only councilor to oppose Morenci’s support of the measure.