A smoking shelter built by taxpayers has lit the flame of controversy in county government. The Douglas County Board wants questions about the project answered, but the County Housing Authority doesn't have to answer and may not appear at a board meeting.
Residents of a subsidized town home community called Woodgate in Northwest Omaha are restricted from smoking anywhere on the Douglas County Housing Authority property except under the new three thousand dollar shelter.
It’s located about 30 feet from a tenant’s bedroom window. That’s why non smoker Shelagh Smith took a deep breath and appeared before the Douglas County board. Smith told commissioners, “I want to sit outside on my patio, and I want to open my windows when it’s nice out and not smell their smoke.”
County commissioner Mike Boyle said he would request the housing authority director to appear before the board to answer questions. Boyle said, “I’m taking it very seriously and I know the other commissioners are as well. We don’t have jurisdiction over them I intend to request she come down and answer these questions.”
Among the questions would be why the smoking shelter was built so close to a non smoking tenant. The housing authority director Joan Bertolini said that was the best location to make the shelter handicap accessible. She said a sidewalk will be installed soon and landscape around the open air shelter.
She also offered to find the non smoking tenant a new unit. But Shelagh Smith said, “I’ve lived here five years, I don’t want to move.”
It appears the controversy hasn't been extinguished.