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Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Smoking violation fine paid

By Shelley Grieshop
The manager of a southwest Mercer County bar agreed to pay a maximum $100 fine during the county's first appeal hearing for a violation of the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act.
Robert Uhlenhake, manager of Wendelin Tavern, signed an agreement that orders him to pay a $100 fine to the state following the informal hearing held Oct. 16 at the health department office in Celina.
The Mercer County-Celina City Health Department board on Wednesday was informed of the outcome of the October appeal hearing and approved the action, which was recommended by independent and impartial hearing officer Angela Nickell, a local attorney.
According to Michelle Kimmel, environmental director for the health department, the violations against Wendelin Tavern involved the presence of ashtrays, smoking in a prohibited area, infiltration of smoke and not posting "no smoking" signs. The health department agreed to treat all the violations as "one event," with the penalty based on just one violation.
This is the second round of violations lodged against the bar; first violations net a warning letter. A future violation within a two-year period, starting from Sept. 4, would be deemed a third violation with a maximum fine of $500. If there are no other violations through Sept. 5, 2009, the tavern will be treated as a first-time violator again.
Violaters can either pay their fines or appeal them to a hearing officer, as Uhlenhake did.
Wendelin Tavern was represented at the hearing by Coldwater attorney David Bruns. The health department's attorney is Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Ikerd.
Kimmel, who has expressed her own frustration with the new law and its enforcement procedures, said it cost the health department about $350 in time, travel, postage and other expenses to hold the appeals hearing. The $100 fine to be paid by Uhlenhake will first go to the state with 90 percent or $90 of the fine returned to the county in a few weeks.
Kimmel said although complaints keep coming in and businesses continue to receive fines, no other appeals cases are pending.
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