No smoking policy on housing authority horizon

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the Thursday, March 15, meeting of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA), Executive Director Traver Aiken addressed the forthcoming no smoking policy, which is scheduled to take effect for residents August 1, 2018.

The policy is a result of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule published Dec. 5, 2016, and made effective Feb. 3, 2017, that states all public housing agencies nationwide must have a no smoking policy in place by the end of an 18-month implementation period (July 30, 2018).

According to Aiken, the policy bans all lit tobacco products within residences or other buildings on housing authority property. Additionally, once the policy takes effect, residents who smoke will have to do so outside and at least 25 feet from any entrance to a residence. The policy does not ban smokeless tobacco or vaping products.

“I’ve generated the policy. The policy has been sent out for the review for residents’ comments period,” Aiken said.

Also, Aiken told the authority he has already been addressing residents’ input, comments and concerns on the coming policy and will continue to do so through June. One common concern from residents, Aiken said, was the application of the policy to visitors and guests to a residence. To this, Aiken explained the head of household will be held directly responsible for any violations from all visitors or other members of the household.

Though Aiken in prior meetings has expressed concern that the no smoking policy could create a degree of friction between the housing authority and residents or even between residents themselves, the director did mention Thursday that he has received some positive response from residents regarding the policy.

“Most residents have been positively receptive to (the policy),” Aiken told BRHA members. “They’re kind of like, ‘This gives me a reason to quit smoking. I’ve been wanting to quit smoking forever.'”

Aiken also reported to the BRHA he had been communicating with representatives from the American Cancer Society in an effort to establish an onsite cancer pre-screening event in the near future for residents at little to no cost.

Earlier in the meeting, the BRHA approved the nomination of current resident board member Ellan Johnson to continue to serve on the BRHA. Aiken explained Johnson’s appointment depends on official approval and ratification from Mayor Donna Whitener. Once appointed by Whitener, Johnson’s term will span from April 2018 through March 2019.

“We love to have you again Mrs. Johnson,” Aiken said to Johnson. “We appreciate your willingness to participate.”

The authority also approved a $60,000 transfer of funds from the BRHA operating checking account to a money market reserve account. Aiken explained the purpose of the transfer was to receive a higher interest rate in order to build up further reserve funds.

CLARIFICATION: Last month, it was reported Aiken expressed concern over legislation currently on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly that could eliminate a low-income housing tax credit that benefits housing authorities across the state by giving a tax credit to contracted companies developing new units for housing authorities. That legislation is Georgia HB 851, which is a Bill to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. If passed, the legislation could end the tax credit by 2023. Georgia HR 798, on the other hand, was a Resolution adopted by the General Assembly in March 2017 to create a House Study Committee to examine the effectiveness of the low-income tax credit.

 

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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