Smoking to be curbed at Heritage Plaza

At its meeting on Wednesday, City Council will consider designating Heritage Plaza as a smoke-free location, except for a designated area during events.

The resolution for enacting the restrictions is on the agenda after a discussion at a recent meeting based on a letter from Patrick Miller, executive director of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp., outlining his hope to “eliminate one of the more serious issues with the Plaza, and that is the constant clean-up of the cigarette butts that are left after many of the events.”

A year ago, council banned smoking at 24 parks overseen by the Central Blair Recreation & Parks Commission.

GAEDC is one of the main players for the Summer Sounds Concert Series.

It proposed setting up the designated smoking area on the platform near the rail car in back of the plaza or near the restrooms.

Mike Haire was the only councilman who objected.

“I’m not 100 percent in favor, because of the fact [the concert series] tends to be more of an adult thing,” he said. “Serving alcohol, the whole nine yards.”

It’s also outdoors, and authorities can’t restrict smoking on 11th Avenue in front of the plaza or in the alley in back, he said.

The concert series organizers have private security officers who can enforce the limitations, said City Manager Joe Weakland and Haire.

Allen Robison, executive director of the Blair County Community Action Agency, which runs a separate concert series in the plaza, and Gerald Hymes, chairman of the Altoona Parking Authority, also signed the letter notifying the city of the proposed restrictions.

The letter also spoke of the groups’ concerns about the loitering of young adults who use the plaza as a hangout – littering, swearing and “really becoming a nuisance to the six or seven businesses that are within 50-100 yards of the plaza.”

“It can be intimidating to people who are coming to this area to shop or for other reasons,” the letter stated.

The letter also alerted the city about “bike riders and skateboarders and the destruction that takes place” at the plaza. Those young people have caused damage to city-owned tents and electrical equipment, as well as repeated damage to the canopy over the stage, according to the letter.

The only answer to the security loitering and damage problems may be more police enforcement, the letter stated.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.