Powell officials last week finalized plans to prohibit smoking in specified parts of city parks.

Powell officials last week finalized plans to prohibit smoking in specified parts of city parks.

At the Oct. 16 meeting of City Council, members voted 5-0 to put in place a "soft ban" on smoking within 15 feet of Powell playgrounds, under picnic shelters and near park bathrooms.

Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner and Councilman Tom Counts were absent from the meeting, but each previously voiced support for the ban.

The law is designed to curb smoking near areas most frequented by children. Smoking still will be permitted in other areas of the parks, including grassy areas, parking lots and trails.

"No smoking" signs will be provided free of charge by the Delaware General Health District and will be installed in city parks soon, officials said.

The ban is called "soft" because it won't be strictly enforced. Residents won't be ticketed for smoking in a restricted area, though they could receive warnings. Supporters of soft bans have said they empower residents to ask smokers to move if they can point to a sign.

Mayor Richard Cline said the legislation strikes a balance between personal freedoms and public-health concerns.

"I voiced some resignations about this concept when it first came forward, but this seems like a workable solution that doesn't unnecessarily burden the rights of the residents who choose to smoke, while it does consider the rights of residents who don't want to be exposed to secondhand smoke."

Downtown TIF money flowing

Also at the Oct. 16 meeting, Councilman Jim Hrivnak said workers made some progress on planned upgrades to downtown Powell this month, installing 15 bike racks around the downtown district.

Additional projects slated for completion by spring 2013 include road repairs along Depot Street, just north of Powell Road and east of the railroad tracks. Repairs will include crack-sealing in the roadway and repairs to an adjacent gravel parking lot.

Also planned are improvements to the drainage on North Liberty Street.

Officials said the street has poor drainage, causing water to pool and ice to form on pedestrian walkways in the winter.

In all, the projects will cost about $100,000 , and they will be funded by Powell's downtown tax-increment financing district. They will be the first projects paid for with money from the downtown TIF district, established in 2005.

Taxes on improvements to property within the district since creation of the TIF are diverted for use on infrastructure costs in the established area.

"There's a lot to do, but we are moving forward," Hrivnak said.