The Arcata City Council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags at most businesses within city limits in an effort to promote the use of reusable bags, and to approve a resolution that would encourage the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to designate Arcata Fire Protection District stations as safe surrender sites.

”This process has been in place for some time,” Chief Desmond Cowan said. “Given the time of year ... it's incredibly timely that we can step forward and offer this service to the public.”

Multiple council members thanked the fire department for taking on the responsibility.

”It's a sad thing to even have to think about, but I suppose it's better that we have some kind of safe surrender sites than someone who just can't deal with their situation and have no options,” Councilwoman Susan Ornelas said.

The initiative, brought forward by Humboldt Bay Fire Battalion Chief Chris Jelinek, would designate eight locations between the two fire districts, Cowan said.

”We're happy to partner with them,” he added.

Under state law, anyone with custody can confidentially surrender a baby to public or private hospitals, designated fire stations or other safe surrender sites, within 72 hours of birth without fear of prosecution, according to staff. The law, which was passed in 2001, provides a safe alternative to parents who are unwilling or unable to keep their babies.

More than 400 infants were safely surrendered statewide from 2001 to 2011.

The council also passed an ordinance which will prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience food stores, pharmacies and retail businesses. Under the ordinance, which will be implemented on Feb. 1, produce, meat, bulk, gift and donated bags, and bags provided for prescription medications and those smaller than 625 inches, will be exempt.

A paper bag made of at least 40 percent post-consumer recyclable materials will be offered for 10 cents, and the money will be kept by the retailer. The fee will take effect in August to allow time for a reusable bag campaign.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to accept a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for nearly $10,000 to implement the Every 15 Minutes program -- which strives to reduce alcohol-related incidents among youth -- at Arcata High School.

The council will meet again on Dec. 18 for its regularly scheduled meeting.

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.