Hospital asks for Lacey Street

Friday, October 12, 2007
Lacey Street runs through the Southeast Missouri Hospital campus and intersects Broadway across from Capaha Park. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast Missouri Hospital wants its smoking ban to include Lacey Street.

To accomplish that, the hospital wants the city of Cape Girardeau to give up the street and its sidewalks from Sunset Boulevard to Broadway.

The hospital's request is in a Sept. 25 letter from attorney Al Spradling III to city manager Doug Leslie.

The letter notes the hospital owns both sides of the street and wants "control of the street for smoking purposes and other matters."

The city council will review the request at its Monday meeting, according to Leslie.

It's not unusual for a city to give up an alley dividing the space between adjoining neighbors, or even an undeveloped tract once intended for a street that sits by a single property owner. But a paved road with sidewalks on either side is unusual, Spradling said. He said he couldn't recall a similar case while he served as Cape Girardeau's mayor from 1994 to 2002.

Won't pay for land

The hospital would pay county transaction fees and become responsible for the street's upkeep and maintenance, Spradling said. But the hospital won't pay the city for the land, according to city attorney Eric Cunningham.

"The question is whether it was needed for the purpose first given to the city," he said. "If you want to look at compensation, the city wouldn't have to maintain it, and that's a big, ongoing expense that wouldn't be there."

Ken Eftink, the city's development services director, said Cape Girardeau would retain easements for utility lines that cross the property as well as ingress and egress of the street for fire protection purposes.

Once the hospital owns the street, it could legally reconfigure it, from making it one-way or a cul-de-sac to tearing up the road and sidewalks completely and building over it, as long as the city could access utilities. Spradling said no dramatic changes are likely to happen.

He said owning the street is key to the hospital maintaining its "smoke-free campus" commitment and eliminating smokers' litter. The hospital banned smoking on all of its property Sept. 1, 2006. Starting last month, enforcement increased when security officers began asking those lighting up outside to finish smoking off the property. Some chose to remain on the sidewalks or on Lacey Street because the hospital didn't have jurisdiction over the city property.

The city's easements, Spradling said, pertain only to servicing utilities and do not constitute a smaller smoking zone.

"It's like my own property," he said. "The city may have an easement to run a water line to the main. They have a right to come on my property to fix that water line. That does not give the general public the right to come onto that property."

Spradling said smokers have the option of the four public streets around hospital property: Broadway, Sunset Boulevard, Thilenius Street and Louisiana Avenue.

As for problems with smokers loitering on or near homeowners' lawns, he said hospital employees can ask smokers to avoid those areas, but it would be "the private property owners' obligation to remove people."

There is, he said, "no right to smoke as a constitutional right."

335-6611, extension 127

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