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County considering smoke/tobacco free workplace

Fri, Apr 4th, 2014

County commissioners discussed the possibility of implementing a tobacco free workplace policy at their April 1 meeting.

Kristina Kohn, Human Resources, explained that the discussion originated in the Safety Committee and included a discussion of e-cigarettes. Chairman Chuck Amunrud said the discussion was led by Brenda Pohlman, Public Health educator.

Cigarette smoke is an issue for people who are accessing the court house and has been an issue coming into county buildings at the entrance or through open windows.

County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman noted that public health educators are planning to work on an ordinance draft for the board’s review which would limit tobacco use on county property. An ordinance would be required to limit tobacco use by the general public on county property. Today’s discussion dealt specifically with a workplace policy for county employees and not the general public.

Commissioner Tom Kaase remarked that he was in favor of the direction that the discussion is going, but maintained people will violate the policy. Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested they adopt a policy while putting the implementation date months down the road to give employees time to come into compliance.

Kohn noted that the employee newsletter will have information about a smoking cessation program. Insurance will provide quitting aids or nicotine replacements at no cost.

Commissioner Duane Bakke commented that telling employees that they can’t smoke on county property would more likely be complied with as they could walk across the street to smoke. On the other hand, he said tobacco chewing by an employee driving a truck is not hurting anybody.

Amunrud asked his colleagues to look at the broader picture and the language in the state public health rules. Compliance for grant funding includes all tobacco use, the elimination or reduction of tobacco use. Kaase questioned whether we will be looking at what people eat for lunch next?

Bakke insisted that employees should be made aware of the proposed policy before it is put into place so we can get their feedback. A motion was approved to make department heads responsible for informing employees of the proposed policy and to get their input. Then, it will be discussed at a Department Head Committee meeting before coming back to the county board.

Root River Watershed

Donna Rasmussen, SWCD, requested the board’s support for the county’s participation in a cooperative effort to develop a watershed plan for the Root River Watershed with five other counties including Mower, Olmsted, Winona, Houston, and Dodge.

Updates to local water management plans in Fillmore, Mower, and Winona counties must be completed in 2015 and in Houston County in 2017. Rasmussen said there already is informal cooperation and communication between the counties.

Nearly half of the Root River watershed area lies within Fillmore County. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is asking for requests throughout the state for watershed areas that want to participate in the “One Watershed One Plan.” Funding will be available for the pilot project chosen to develop the watershed plan.

If the grant is awarded it will be used to hire a consulting firm to write the plan. A joint powers agreement including SWCDs and the counties would govern the plan. Local county governments will still have local control. The plan would encompass all monitoring projects.

The board voted to sign a letter of support for cooperation with other counties in developing the Root River Watershed plan.

Other business in brief

•The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to be in compliance by January, 2015. Kristina Kohn reported that 70 percent of employees (it was originally 95 percent) that work 30 or more hours a week have to be offered health insurance to be in compliance.

Kohn said the county currently has 152 employees that work 30 or more hours and if you add intermittent employees, that number increases to 158. The county offers coverage to the 152 employees now and even if no changes are made that will put the county at 96 percent and in compliance.

Kohn noted that the intermittent employees do not have the opportunity to purchase health insurance through the county’s group plan, but they could go to the MNsure website.

•The board approved the removal of the 2,500 gallon per day bottling limit in Section 735 of the Zoning Ordinance dealing with extraction of water for water bottling purposes. A public hearing was held on March 20 at the Planning Commission which recommended the change in the ordinance.

Zoning Administer Chris Graves explained that demand for bottled water is much higher in the summer, adding state safeguards are in place. The state requires a water appropriation permit if water use is over 10,000 gallons per day or over 1 million gallons per year. The DNR monitors water bottling facilities.

In order to establish a water bottling business within the county a conditional use permit is required.

•Two conditional use permits to erect AT&T communication towers to improve cellular coverage were approved as recommended by the Planning Commission after public hearings. Graves said both requests meet all set back requirements and leased space on the towers will be made available to other cell phone providers.

A 295 foot tower will be located in Section 34, Fillmore Township (Affeldt property) and a 280 foot tower will be located in Section 22, Beaver Township (Ullom property).

•Randy Dahl commented that all of the cities have Ag land within their borders. He asked Donna Rasmussen about where the responsibility lies for Ag run off within city boundaries. She said the cities are responsible if they have a soil erosion ordinance. Dahl maintained that the number one issue associated with water quality in the county is run off, adding Fillmore County has always been proactive. He wanted it clear that run off within city limits is the responsibility of the city.

•Approval was given for VSO Jason Marquardt to attend National Association of County Veteran Services Officer Conference. Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs grant funds will pay for transportation, lodging, and registration.

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