MASSENA - While smoking on the steps of town hall could be viewed as disrespectful, it is not, at least at this time, against the law.
Theres always a great deal of confusion when it comes to the Clean Indoor Air Act, St. Lawrence County Tobacco Free Coalition Program Director Benjamin R. Todd said. Im not aware of any language in the law that says there is a set distance required from the entrance of a building.
Mr. Todd said that is typically left up to municipalities to determine with their own ordinances.
Massena Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said Massena has no such law on the books yet, but that may change as Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray has recently voiced his displeasure with people smoking on the town hall steps near the entrance of the building, which also happens to be outside his office window.
Im sick of running into smokers on the town hall steps, he said, suggesting the town implement a ban that would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of the building.
I dont like to have to do that, Mr. Gray said, adding in the past, although he is a non-smoker, he has been a defender of smokers rights.
Ive always said when theyre done with the smokers theyre coming after the fat people next, he said.
Smokers typically congregate on the town hall steps on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons when court is in session. The court sessions typically last for several hours, and the court calendar for Tuesday afternoons now typically ranges between 150 and 200 cases.
Town Councilman John F. Macaulay said at the meeting he thought there was a state law already in place that prohibited smoking within 50 feet of the building.
That would take you out to the middle of the road, he said.
Town Councilman Charles A. Chuck Raiti said another possibility was following in the countys footsteps and turning their town hall into a smoke free campus.
Mr. Gray, however, thought that was an extreme move.
I dont want to go crazy, he said. I just want them off the steps.
Mr. Gray said he would like to see the town explore the matter further and at some point enact legislation that would keep smokers off of the steps and away from the buildings entrance.
Then I can say, We made a law damn it, get off the steps.
The behavior of crowds gathering on the town hall steps have been an issue that has popped up from time to time for several decades. At one time the town hall steps were a popular gathering spot for teenagers.