BROOKSVILLE — Administrators with the Hernando County Health Department have always supported a tobacco-free lifestyle, but now the County Commission has made it official.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved a policy that will prohibit the use of tobacco products on all Health Department campuses, a policy that would affect not only employees, but also clients and visitors to the sites.
The policy would take effect next year when a new 50,000-square-foot Health Department building is completed off Forest Oaks Boulevard. At that point, the policy can be put in place at all county-owned Health Department campuses, including the Brooksville office.
Officials had wanted to wait for the new facility to open before allowing the policy to take hold in order to provide a consistent message to staff and clients.
Tuesday's vote means the Health Department joins other local agencies that have already made the move to save health insurance costs and promote healthier lifestyles, including Spring Hill Fire Rescue, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the Hernando County School District and local hospitals.
"It is the intent of the Board of County Commissioners by the adoption of the policy to support the obligation of the Hernando County Health Department to model and promote healthy lifestyle choices for area residents, visitors and businesses,'' the policy states.
"Additionally, it is the intent of the board that the following policy ensures a safe, clean environment for Health Department employees, clients and visitors.''
The prohibition extends from the Health Department buildings to parking lots, breezeways and sidewalks.
The policy does not require employees to quit using tobacco, but encourages efforts to stop its use.
Also included in the plan is "aggressive education outreach efforts" to inform the community and clients about the policy change for the months leading up to implementation.
Potential new employees will be told of the policy at the time of their interviews and reminded again during orientation, the policy states.
In other business:
• At the urging of newly sworn-in Commissioner Wayne Dukes, the commission directed staff to bring ideas back in December on alternative ways of running the county's tourism development business. Longtime tourism development coordinator Sue Rupe is retiring at the end of the month and interviews with potential replacements begin today. But Dukes wanted other options and his fellow commissioners agreed to let the staff complete some research to provide a list of possibilities.
• The commission learned that advertising for bidders on the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project began this week. Bid opening is expected in early January with a final recommendation to the commission before the Jan. 31 deadline the commission set itself. The new bids were called for after the county got an extension in their funding deadline to Jan. 1, 2011.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.