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County supports state workplace smoking ban


Fri, Feb 16th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Fillmore County Health Director Sharon Serfling asked the county board to support a statewide smoke-free workplace ordinance at the February 13 meeting. She made note that about 80% of Fillmore County residents are non-smokers. She informed the board that Iowa and Wisconsin legislators are working on an ordinance and North Dakota already has an ordinance in force.

According to a 2003 survey conducted in 17 Minnesota communities by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health over 90% agree second hand smoke is harmful to children and adults. Strong majorities preferred smoke free restaurants and 96% of smokers feel smoking should be restricted in restaurants. An interesting statistic in the survey was that even 71% of smokers found second hand smoke to be annoying.

The discussion centered on support for a statewide ordinance rather than local county ordinances. Serfling listed city and county governments that already have smoke free policies within the state of Minnesota, also nineteen states with statewide indoor workplace policies, and more than nine countries with nationwide policies. County Attorney Brett Corson explained that a statewide ordinance may not prohibit a city or county from imposing a stricter ordinance.

Background information provided by Serfling listed the health hazards of lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory tract infections. It suggests that the related "illnesses cost Minnesota $2.6 billion in health care and lost productivity." Chairman Marc Prestby speculated that some businesses are having problems getting people through their doors now. Bar and restaurant business people who are against a smoke free policy list the potential to lose business as their number one reason for opposing a ban.

The board passed a resolution supporting the passage of a comprehensive statewide smoke-free workplace ordinance by the state legislature. Noted in the resolution was the scientific evidence of a serious health threat, the overwhelming support by Minnesota communities, the overwhelming support from Fillmore County residents (2003 survey), and the "wide variety of local city and county ordinances throughout Minnesota."

Public Health Resolution from 1996 Rescinded

Sharon Serfling has recently argued in favor of giving credit for past experience when hiring new nurses. In a resolution that was passed by the board in February, 1996, this kind of credit was approved. Since then, there have been two market studies completed for the county in 1999 and 2006. The result of the studies was to have competitive wages for nurses as well as other county employees addressed and adjusted. Commissioner Randy Dahl stressed the need for one uniform system for all departments. Therefore, the board rescinded the 1996 resolution.

Rotational Grazing Study

Donna Rasmussen asked the board to approve a contract for the South Branch River project with Dan Miller, a farm management consultant, to do a study on the economics of rotational grazing. She asked that $12,600 be budgeted to do the analysis. She argued that he was the logical choice because he is doing similar work with the Department of Agriculture and would likely work with some of the same producers.

Commissioner Duane Bakke objected to Miller as he would have a bias in favor of rotational grazing, as he uses the practice already. Bakke did agree, however, that he was qualified to do the economic analysis. Prestby questioned the procedure of having one offer and asked whether the contract should be put out for quotes. County Attorney Corson, after looking at the statute, suggested that a couple of quotes should be taken as the amount of the contract is over $10,000.

The board decided to reject Miller's current bid. They will now try to solicit at least two bids.

Other Business

• Chairman Prestby thanked twenty-three county employees being recognized for their valuable contribution to county services. Glorianne Knox was noted for her thirty years of service. Others were for twenty, fifteen, ten, or five years. Brenda Pohlman of Public Health received her award for safety. Eugene Voight of Highway received the honorable mention safety award.

• Seven sealed bids were opened for renting the 46 acres on the County Farm for 2007 and 2008. The high bid was offered by Wayne Haug in the amount of $9500 for each year. The county receives the payment annually.

• On March 27 there will be a public hearing regarding an amendment to the Rural Addressing Ordinance. Danea Swenson said that the paragraphs concerning lost or stolen signs have been reviewed and revised by County Attorney Corson. Townships will be notified of the changes.

• A Health Fair in March to promote wellness for county employees was approved. All county employees eligible for health insurance are included. Screening will include cholesterol testing.

• County surveyor David Knutson asked for and received approval to purchase a used GPS receiver for $1250 as a backup. He explained that he has three working receivers now, but that they are not repairable and they are no longer manufactured. He needs three to triangulate. An entirely new set of equipment would cost $50,000. Knutson hopes the spare will keep the present equipment workable for several more years.

• County Engineer John Grindeland asked for and received approval for the low bid of $441,731.55 from Minnowa Construction out of Harmony for the Sumner Township bridge. The board also approved the purchase of a two ton 2008 Ford F-550 diesel, aluminum body, and strobe light for $112,222.23. The new unit will replace the eleven year old sign truck. Grindeland explained that it will be safer and more user friendly.

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