The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 30, 2011

Blue Earth County favors public housing smoking ban

MANKATO — At Orness Plaza, a 101-unit public housing complex in Mankato, smoking damage in some units was so bad workers are replacing the sheet rock walls during a large-scale renovation.

That’s the most dramatic example, but smoking is proving costly enough to local governments that Blue Earth County agreed in principle Tuesday to ban smoking in its 84 public housing units. The Mankato City Council is expected to take up the issue for its 179 units at some point.

Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg’s only question to Housing Coordinator Patti Ziegler was why smoking wasn’t banned earlier in public housing.

She said the issue was raised most recently by the occupants of Pioneer Plaza, a 13-unit apartment building in Madison Lake. Some residents there were bothered by the secondhand smoke wafting from neighboring units.

Instead of site-specific rules, the department considered a blanket prohibition of indoor smoking. If formally approved by the County Board, the measure is expected to be inserted into lease language and signed by tenants early next year.

People who continue to smoke can be charged for the cost of the cleanup.

Banning smoking in apartments is catching on among property managers, said Julie Hawker, president of the Greater Mankato Multi-Housing Association. The group had a presentation last fall from the American Lung Association on how to craft a no-smoking policy.

In some units, she said, “the walls are yellow. It’s just horrible. You look at that and wonder what it’s doing to their bodies.”

As smoking is a difficult habit to break, it’s easier to make the transition in new units.

“Otherwise, it’s nine months to a year to work everyone through a smoking cessation program,” Hawker said.

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