LOCKPORT – Two-and-a-half years after closed-door objections from Republican legislators shelved the measure, the Niagara County Legislature last week unanimously approved the posting of anti-smoking signs in county parks.
The rectangular signs reading "Young Lungs at Play" are the same ones the Legislature balked at in 2010.
They are to be posted near playgrounds, splash parks, restrooms and other sites in county parks frequented by children.
Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, a former employee of the Lockport Youth and Recreation Department, said the signs "will honor the rights of our citizens."
He said there will be no active enforcement, but he expects that the mere presence of the signs, to be posted after Jan. 1, will reduce smoking in the affected areas.
Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said the signs are being donated by Medco Health Solutions, a prescription drug insurance management company, and the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition.
"We think it's a very obvious thing to do," Stapleton said.
Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said he took a grandson to the Oppenheim Park splash park a dozen times last summer and noticed little smoking even though there were no signs prohibiting it.
"Somehow, people have acquired a different sense of responsibility today," Ross said.
He said the signs are already up in Erie County-owned parks and in parks operated by several municipalities in Erie and Niagara counties.
"It's not a big deal, but still, it's the right thing to do," Ross said.
In another matter, the Legislature appropriated what appeared to be all the money left in its Seneca Niagara Casino revenue account, $17,532, and gave it to the Niagara USA Chamber for a "Shop Niagara" promotional campaign.
The county's share of the casino revenue was cut off by law before the Senecas stopped paying anyone in a dispute over gambling exclusivity, as the state plans a vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize non-Indian casinos.
Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, said the Chamber approached the county for help with the ad campaign. She said since the City of Niagara Falls may cut off aid to business groups because of its budget crunch, it was appropriate for the county to pick up some of the slack.
At one time, the county had $976,000 in casino revenue. It spent more than 25 percent of it on an unsuccessful lawsuit against the New York Power Authority in a bid to prevent NYPA from transferring its surpluses to the state's general treasury. Most of the rest was parceled out to local groups and events, a few thousand dollars at a time.